March 29, 2016 – in Car Accidents, Risk Reduction on the Road

Yellow light timing to prevent drivers from running red lights and causing accidents

Since more than 20% of traffic fatalities occur at intersections, creating safer intersections is a huge priority. There are many factors that go into creating safe intersections. One of the most important is the yellow light.

Yellow traffic light intersection in AtlantaAccording to Georgia law, the yellow light is simply an indication to drivers than the traffic signal is about to turn red. It is not, as many believe, a signal that you should always stop or even slow down. If you can safely enter the intersection (while obeying all other traffic laws, including the posted speed limit) before the light turns red, you are not in violation.1

One important fact that you may not realize, however, is this: the length of the yellow light varies. On average, yellow lights last between 3-6 seconds, but this varies from city to city and state to state, and even from intersection to intersection within the same city!

Much research has gone into formulating the ideal length of the yellow light. Some cities, such as Chicago, have experimented with a very short (three-second) yellow light. Unsurprisingly, coupled with a deployment of red light cameras, it resulted in a surge of tickets and record revenue for the city, in addition to a 20% increase in rear-end collisions.

According to traffic researcher Timothy Gates, when you combine short yellow lights with traffic cameras, “it creates an unsafe environment where people are stopping too abruptly because they are afraid of getting a ticket.”3

Hesham Rakha of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that one potential issue with the timing of yellow lights is that they can lead to the creation of a “dilemma zone,” where a driver is unable to make a good decision whether to stop or proceed through the intersection. This can lead to more accidents.2

Many states are now revising their rules and guidelines for yellow lights. A popular formula comes from the Institute of Transportation Engineers. The formula takes into account four variables: the speed of the vehicles approaching the intersection, driver reaction time, deceleration rate and the slope of the road.4 By standardizing the timing of the yellow light, drivers are more likely to make good decisions at intersections, reducing the likelihood of an accident.

Have you been involved in a accident in Atlanta due to someone running a red light?

If you have been involved in an accident due to another driver running a red light, contact the law firm of Wood & Craig at 404-888-9962. We have over 50 combined years of legal experience and will work diligently to secure a positive outcome for you.