There are two sides to every story, and red light runners have theirs. Ticketed and observed violators, including 80 persons who were seen running red lights during The Post's spotcheck and later interviewed, either denied they had run the light or gave reasons for not stopping at the intersection.

Very few drivers wanted to be quoted by name.

"I'm sure I'm very guilty of running red lights," said a Northern Virginia man. "But I usually do it when I'm late for work and don't do it unless other cars ahead of me also run them."

The motorist, who was observed by The Post running a red light at Gallows Road and Leesburg Pike in Fairfax County, blamed his actions on stress and said he has enrolled in a stress reduction class.

"I find that even when I'm not in a hurry, I get caught up into hurrying," he said.

Richard Herman Patt, a District resident, said he was falsely cited one recent evening. He complained the police officer was just trying to meet a ticket quota.

"I would swear that I didn't go through it," he said.

Patt singled out cabdrivers, calling them "a menace" to the roads. He said he thinks they contribute to the temptation to run red lights because they drive too slowly.

Many pedestrians, however, complain that cab drivers come barreling through the intersections, practically knocking them over.

Cabdrivers, for their part, resent the criticism -- but confess that they do sometimes run the lights.

"Sure, cabdrivers are guilty of running red lights, but for good reason," said cabdriver Patrice Koudi. "You have so many cabdrivers in this city that the competition is intense."

Koudi said cabbies run red lights, especially during rush hours, when they see a potential customer across an intersection -- and want to reach him or her before another driver does.

"If one driver doesn't do it, you can be sure that the driver next to him will," he said.

One cabbie, James Tawiah, complained that cabdrivers are "favorite scapegoats" for other motorists and pedestrians.

He said other drivers run red lights, too, but admitted that cabbies may "run them a little more because we don't have meters . . . . Our salary depends on speed."

Another cabbie, a part-time driver who asked not to be identified by name, said cabdrivers run lights out of stress and frustration, especially if they pick up a suitcase-toting passenger -- and end up going to Union Station instead of the airport.

"Sometimes, red lights aren't red lights when you're angry," he said. " They look green all the way."