Yellow… But Not For Very Long
Ever get the
feeling that traffic lights stay yellow for shorter intervals than
they used to?
youre not imagining it.
have been shortened at traffic lights in many areas around the country,
courtesy of the government officials responsible for writing national
transportation guidelines. Some signals stay yellow only about 70
percent as long as they did 15 years ago. And heres a curious
thing: The change in signal timing intervals coincides with the
much-discussed rise in the incidence of red light-running.
way, more people are getting caught in the middle of an intersection
after the light has changed from yellow to red. Is it a coincidence
that decreased yellow timing and red light running track
there are people who deliberately run red lights irrespective
of the yellow interval. These are the jerks who enter an intersection
when the light is already red. But the majority are people
who entered the intersection when the light was still yellow
but didnt get through before it cycled to red. Many
probably decided that they could not come to a stop safely (and
without risking being rear-ended by the car behind them) before
the light transitioned from yellow to red.
So they keep
on going because of the shortened yellow interval, which
gives them neither time to stop safely nor enough time to clear
the intersection before the light changes.
And, if theres
a camera around, theyll get a ticket in the mail a week or
But does short-sheeting
yellow intervals improve safety or just the countys
theres a delay before the opposing traffic gets a green light,
cars entering the intersection on yellow (but going red before they
clear it) will get through the intersection before theres
a safety issue.
But there is
a monetary issue and its the key to understanding
the eagerness with which so many county and state governments have
embraced red light cameras.
intervals tracks with the adoption of automated red light camera
enforcement systems which have become money-fountains for
state and local governments that use this technology as well
as for the private companies that typically share in the revenue
collected. The government of the District of Columbia, for example,
has estimated that it will take in some $16 million dollars annually
via red light camera enforcement.
A pretty good
not making the roads any safer.
yellow intervals would do much more to address the manufactured
crisis of red light-running than setting up red light
cameras and it would do the job without fleecing motorists
and placing us all under the unblinking eye of constant government
the city of Mesa, Arizona, added about a second of yellow time to
traffic lights at several intersections, there was a 73 percent
reduction in red light entries and a major drop in accidents.
The city subsequently ditched the automated cameras it has used
previously to monitor the intersection and (of course) send out
automated tickets for red light running.
As with the
loathsome 55-mph National Maximum Speed Limit
which morphed from a supposed energy-saving policy into a safety
issue the moment it became clear there was a fortune to be mined
in the form of speeding tickets, the red light-running
crisis is about money and government power period.
Just as returning
to higher lawful speed limits did not make the roads any less safe
(accident and fatality rates have gone down following repeal of
the 55-mph limit in 1995) adding a second or more to the time a
light stays yellow could very likely put a bigger dent in the problem
of red light running than erecting ticket-spewing cameras
at every intersection.
But the former
wont put any cash in the hands of government or the insurance
cartel while the latter is guaranteed to.
one the Clovers will support?
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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