Recently by Eric Peters: When America Went Crazy
Ever get the feeling that traffic lights stay yellow for shorter intervals than they used to?
Turns out, youre not imagining it.
Yellow intervals 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.
Put another 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 together?
Certainly, 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.
They run the light.
And, if theres a camera around, theyll get a ticket in the mail a week or so later.
But does short-sheeting yellow intervals improve safety or just the countys revenue stream?
Given that 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.
Shorter yellow 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 scam, eh?
But its not making the roads any safer.
Restoring longer 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 surveillance.
Example: When 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.
Guess which one the Clovers will support?
Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.