Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Running Red Lights—Pros and Cons

Gadabout has made mention in the past about running red lights, so I thought it would be a fine topic of interest and discussion. After some superficial internet research, I was astounded by the depth of information available on the subject, especially as related to traffic cameras installed at busy intersections throughout the country. This knowledge, along with my Master of Science Degree, promotes Gadabout to a traffic light expert!

First off, traffic accidents and related fatalities appear to be heavily weighted to the running of red lights. Thousands of deaths are attributed to red light running each year. Not good. The hazards of red light running have become so extreme that it is currently a major area of discussion at the local, state and federal forums. Lots of attention and resources are being thrown at the issue, and that’s why we are having those pesky cameras installed to spy on us.

Cameras make money! They catch red light runners without much police involvement. Specially trained police officers do review every citation for accuracy before issuing a ticket, but that is a lot less cash than a cop on the beat. Some intersections generate over $1 Million annually. Okay, in the spirit of safety, Gadabout favors this idea, but this is not the end of the story.

There are two general areas of opposition that are important to note—Timing for yellow lights, and rear end collisions. It seems that there are clear cut standards for the length of time a traffic light should indicate yellow based upon speed limits. The faster the car, the longer it takes to stop. Engineers have pretty much figured this stuff out, so just hit the “I Believe Button.” There are also standards for red in all directions to cushion safety factors. The problem is that engineers have shortened yellow timing periods at camera installed intersections in order to increase violation rates. More cash! Both sides seem to argue this point. Anyway, once motorists are informed that red light cameras are in use, they tend to jump on the brakes, resulting in an increase in rear end collisions. This is the ammunition opponents of cameras use to battle Big Brother.

What might the future bring? Well, the literature seems to suggest that increasing yellow light times, in conjunction with cameras is the way to go. If I were a betting man, I would buy stock in the camera companies because it looks like the way of the future! Once they make the yellow timing periods fair, there will be no stopping them. Crap!

So let’s look at safe and fun ways to run red lights, and getting away with it:

- Never run a red light at a busy intersection.
- Always scan the entire intersection for traffic and police before running it.
- Never run red lights with passengers aboard.
- Speed up when a light turns yellow. Remember, it is not considered running a red light (in most states) if the bumper of your car passes through the plane of the intersection while the light is still yellow!
- Become familiar with the timing of lights along routes routinely traveled to determine the best to run.
- Never run a light at an unknown intersection.
- Never run a light with a BAC over 0.05--EVER!


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should get into the psychology of human behavior that dictates the need for these cameras. Why do we run red lights when we know: it's dangerous; we could get a ticket; we show everyone else at the intersection how much self-interest we have?

Bald Jack said...

Gadabout! You've got me laughing out loud (again)!!

Gadabout Jack said...

Dear Anomymous,
Not sure of the psychology of it all, but I do it because I hate getting bogged down on my daily journeys, and sitting at red lights where there shouldn't be a light at all.