Going Through a Yellow Light is Safer than Stopping for It

at red-light camera intersections, injuries from rear-end collisions increased by 24 percent

Going through a red traffic light is dangerous, but not if it just turned red that moment. However stopping too quickly for a yellow light is far more dangerous. I have been driving for more than 50 years and rolled over more than a million miles of highway in more than a few dozen countries and I can tell you that I have never seen an accident or even a near accident involving a vehicle that went through a just-turned red light.

Please read carefully: I'm not talking about cars going through a red light more than a few seconds after it turned red.

On the other hand, I have seen dozen of crashes and near crashes because some idiot slammed his brakes the moment the light turned yellow.

The reasons of course is simple: When you go through an intersection when the light is still yellow or just turning red, the cross-traffic waiting for the light to turn green does not have enough time to get up to speed to hit you or get in the way. That is to say, the only cars moving at top speed are you and the drivers behind you. As long as you all keep moving at equal velocities, no one is going to get hurt.

But if you stop too suddenly, then the cars behind you are going to plow into you or swerve dangerously into something or someone else.

I have a simple suggestion: if you see a yellow light and you cannot come to a gradual, slow stop then keep going through the intersection. If you slam on your brakes for a yellow light, you are not only an idiot, but a dangerous idiot as well.

When you're driving, the only focus should be on the road around you and on driving safely. This is why I am opposed to cameras at intersections to catch drivers who run red lights. The problem is that the driver now worries that he may be halfway in the intersection when the light goes from yellow to red and so to avoid a fine, stops abruptly. The focus has switched from defensive, careful driving to fine avoidance.

Nine states have banned such cameras because they cause more accidents than they prevent.

According to a federal study (1) injuries from right angle crashes decreased by 16 percent at red-light camera intersections while injuries from rear-end collisions increased by 24 percent.

Cities who install cameras at intersections are not interested in saving lives; the cameras are just another way to raise revenues through fines. If city governments actually gave a damn about their citizens' safety they could reduce red light running by taking engineering countermeasures (2) at the most dangerous intersections. One such engineering countermeasure is lengthening the duration of yellow change intervals. Some cities have been hauled into court for having made yellow light times ridiculously short just so they can catch people running red lights.

Sadly, the greedy career politicians running many municipalities care only about sucking as much money out of as many of their citizens as they can. For example,

AOL Autos, 27 Aug 2010, Do Red Light Cameras Reduce Accidents?

For a final, cynical look at whether red light cameras are truly run for safety or money, take High Point, NC. When the city was court-ordered to pay 90 percent of its citation revenue from red light cameras to the local school system, what did it do? It shut the system down and found a way to break its contract with the operator.



ABC News, Red-Light Camera Backlash, Are They Causing Accidents?

A 2005 federal study demonstrated that while injuries from right angle or T-bone crashes decreased by 16 percent at red-light camera intersections, injuries from rear-end collisions increased by 24 percent.



There is a wide range of potential countermeasures to the red-light-running problem. These solutions are generally divided into two broad categories: engineering countermeasures and enforcement countermeasures. Enforcement countermeasures are intended to encourage drivers to adhere to the traffic laws through the threat of citation and possible fine. In contrast, engineering countermeasures (which include any modification, extension, or adjustment to an existing traffic control device) are intended to reduce the chances of a driver being in a position where he or she must decide whether or not to run the red indication. Studies by Retting et al. (1) have shown that countermeasures in both categories are effective in reducing the frequency of red-light-running.

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