I was traveling 35 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour road in my local town. It was night time. The light flashed yellow and red in an instant. Next thing I knew there were flashing lights behind me.
The officer asked: “Did you know that you have run a red light?”
“No sir, it was yellow when I entered the intersection. The light is malfunctioning. The yellow did not stay on the required length of time.”
I showed my driver's license and proof of insurance. I told him I respected the job he had to do. I had been an AP at one time in service. I am not out to give him a hard time. If he thinks I should have a ticket then I will take it and pay what ever I owe.
He let me off with a warning.
That was almost ten years ago. I still remember it because the man was a professional. I respect that.
That is when I started timing yellow lights.
Recently there have been a lot of yellow lights with poor timing. Most of them have a camera attached to them. What I found out is they are deliberately set to catch people out. I will start at the beginning.
Any state highway patrol member will lecture you on the proper distance between cars on a Interstate highway. The rule of thumb is one car length for every ten miles per hour. It takes a car that long to stop if the car in front of you has a problem. Just for argument sake we will say an average car is 15 feet long. Some more, some less. That means that at 35 miles an hour you need 3.5 x 15 feet from a light in order to stop. Let us make it easy on the math. Somewhere between 45 and 60 feet to stop at a light. That means if a light is turning red if you are 45 feet from the light it is impossible for you to safely come to a stop. If someone is following you a little too close you endanger yourself and any passengers by attempting to stop. Yet the light goes red before you can manage the traffic situation.
The contracts with the camera companies specifies the speed of the yellow light at 3.5 seconds. That is calculated so that if you are too close to the light, you will run a red light. In the old days, the yellow light might be set at 5 or even possibly 6 seconds before it changes to red.
Now why would the camera company set the speed of the yellow light? Could it be they are engineering you to run a red light?
The problem is money. Some people will endanger us to make a dollar. I am totally surprised the lights with cameras have not been ruled illegal based on engineering the light so that if you are close to it at the wrong time, you have to run a red light. That endangers everyone.
***The preceding article was authored by Dave Webb***