Wouldn't This Make Intersections Safer?

An article I read today about the use of red-light cameras says: “One of the easiest ways to make these intersections safer without gouging drivers . . . is simply to make yellow lights linger a little longer. A 2003 Texas Transportation Institute study found that increasing the duration of a yellow light by just 0.5 to 1.5 seconds (but not to more than 5.5 seconds in total) would decrease frequency of red-light running by at least 50%.”

Never mind the yellow light, why not make the red light in all directions linger a few seconds longer? It seem to me that this would be the most effective way to prevent crashes at intersections.

I’m guessing you live somewhere that doesn’t get much snow if your theory is that people approach a red light and think “well, it’ll probably be green by the time I get there, so I won’t bother slowing down.”

I’d see two problems:

  1. As yellow lights linger longer, people will aclimate and adjust. I think this happens now, frankly.

  2. Red lights lasting longer will slow down traffic flow and increase fuel costs and cause people to become more impatient, which will probably increase road rage and people trying to make lights because they know they can.

It already does that here in some parts of Maryland. The lights are red for both sides for approx. 3-4 seconds. It usually works, too.

Regardless what the authorities tell you, red light cameras are there to generate revenue for the city/county. The increase in safety is pretty much nil and here’s why: Most, if not all, crashes that I’ve responded to where the cause was someone running a red light occurred after the the light had been a solid red for a while, and the person at fault just wasn’t paying attention and went through the red light assuming it was green. When a person “pushes a yellow”, technically they are going through a red light and are in violation, but since most intersections leave all four directions at red for a few moments, that car has plenty of time to clear the intersection before the cross traffic gets the green light. And even then, it takes a moment or two for the cross traffic to realize they have the green and then to proceed.

Longer yellow lights - or longer red lights- just mean that dudes have a greater reason to run the light. If you know you will only be delayed a minute- eh. But if your expereince shows it’s going to be 3 minutes, it gets too tempting for some.

My (admittedly limited) experience confirms this. A few years ago, I witnessed a crash that was due to a red light runner. The light had been red for him for at least a second before he went through the intersection. He didn’t try to slow down or dodge, either, so it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t paying attention.

That happend to me. I was driving through the green light and this yahoo blow right through the red light and I tboned his brand new pickup truck. Fortunately now one was hurt and there were a bunch of witnesses saying he ran the light.

What time period did the study cover? Did it include data over a long enough time period to allow for habituation of drivers to the changed timing? (Sort of a rehetorical question, the article you quoted did not say.)

You didn’t include the interesting next phrase, which was “And though some morons would run even that light, it would still make the intersection safer, the authors concluded.”

I love people who talk out of their ass on this subject, as with all subjects having to do with traffic and traffic laws.

There are plenty of studies available on the value of red-light cameras to decreased intersection accidents from red-light running. The city I live near, Toledo, has an aggressive red-light camera program, which has resulted in a significant decrease in the instance of red-light running accidents at the intersections in question. However, the state legislature is in the process of passing a law that would effectively prohibit red-light cameras. The reasoning used by the legislature (with which I agree, btw), is that it does not have the traditional safe-guards against improper determinations of guilt found when a police officer must make a traffic stop to issue a ticket.

As for the revenue involved, it should be noted that Redflex, the primary operator of red-light cameras, keeps something like 85% of the revenue generated by the fines; the cities obtain very little, which, of course, in and of itself is a concern (I can’t recall the exact figures, and with class starting in 10 min., don’t have time to look them up, sorry :frowning: ).
As to the OP, there are some places where there is a built-in delay from turning red one direction, to the turning of green the other direction. It would be interesting to find out if those places have significantly reduced rates of red-light-running accidents.

This is personal experience only, but I’d say making the yellow light longer or making alonger period of both ways red, will simply mean people will adapt and run even “later” red lights. I moved to Connecticut 20 years ago from the midwest. I’d never seen such drivers (and I’d gone to school in Boston for 8 years so I’ve seen them). When I first moved here, my immediate reaction to a yellow light was foot off the accelerator. That is not the CT way. In the first years I lived here I consistently (i.e. about once a month) had people pass me (by pulling into the opposite lane and going through the intersection) after I’d stopped for a light.

Virtually nobody even slows for a yellow light, here. If there is a stream of cars, I’d estimate at least two enter the intersection after the light turns red and is red both ways. Invariably if I am sitting at a red light with cars going in the other direction, at least one car enters the intersection after my light turns green meaning there’s has been red for whatever the dual red period is.

And I know my midwestern habits have changed quite a bit towards the CT norm.

Please provide some cites then, good sir.

This report by the Federal Highway Administration, unless I’m missing something, concludes that with red light cameras installed, there were fewer right-angle collisions, but there was a nearly equal increase in rear-end collisions. I reckon that’s where people realize at the last millisecond that they’ll get a ticket, so they slam on their brakes, with rear-ending ensuing.

According to this study, although there was a decrease in side-impact crashes, there was a corresponding increase in rear-end crashes. The rate of accidents with injuries increased, overall. this would seem to indicate that red light cameras, per se are not an effective solution for improved intersection safety.

Sumbitch scooped me! Ya rat basset.

You miss my point. I am not making an assertion one way or the other. But those who ARE making assertions should back them up with facts, not the hot air of their lungs. :wink:

DSYoungEsq is that not from your post?

Given the choice I would much rather be rear ended by some idiot than t-boned by same said idiot.
In a rear ender, I have oh say about 8 feet between me and his front bumper. In a side impact I have 12-18 inches The same amount of energy has to be disapated, you want to do with 8 feet of metal or 12"?
My personal feeling is they should take down the red light camereas and replace them with this or maybe one of these
the problem would be cured in what a week?

Anecdotally, I can assure you that all intersections in Sydney that are fitted with red light cameras have a tarmac black with rubber for the last few feet before the stop line. Drivers don’t understand the way the cameras work, and the traffic authority here has actualy had education campaigns telling them to drive normally and not worry about the cameras.

You have four seconds of yellow. Then, once it’s red, the camera is activated by a sensor in the roadway about a metre past the stop line. There are two shots taken. If the car hasn’t moved (much) in the time between the two photographs, the operator will know the driver has attempted to stop (albeit poorly and an overshoot) and won’t issue a fine notice. If you are halfway or more through the intersection and just “clip” the red, you won’t get a fine either. People still panic though.

When my wife got hit by a red light runner, she wasn’t even the first through the intersection, but the driver was in a car with four people, and was not local. So red light cameras don’t prevent accidents.

However, here is some data that they do reduce them:

California audit report The full report is linked to in the summary.

Some of the numbers Page four gives some numbers from the audits. Some intersections had a 44% decrease - the accident rate in Sacremento as a whole went down 10%, but that includes intersections without cameras, of course.

They put cameras in a few intersections just a few blocks from my house. My unscientific observation is that the percentage of red light runners is down significantly. It is quite epidemic - before the cameras went in, you could depend on one or two people running the light when the intersection was crowded - just to avoid the wait. At another intersection, where traffic on a street turns left to head to a freeway, you could expect two or three cars to turn left after the light changed even today. I’m not talking about just missing the yellow, this was after way after the light changed.

My blood pressure is much better after the cameras went in.