Save lives be extending yellow traffic lights at intersections

April 24, 2014 

If local governments want to save lives at traffic lights, they can simply add one second to their yellow light times as Georgia did in 2008 and as Apopka has recently done.

This simple change would have saved the life of Mark Wandall, who died when the vehicle he was riding in was hit several seconds into the red cycle by an inattentive driver.

As a retired trooper who worked traffic homicide, I used the actual crash report for data. Had Mr. Wandall's vehicle been delayed one second, the crash would have been avoided by 73 feet.

Another benefit is the reduction of "dilemma zones" that require drivers to stop much faster than normal when the light goes from green to yellow -- the less time you have to stop, the harder you have to brake. Harder stops increase the likelihood of rear-end crashes.

It will not take 12-plus-second yellows as some camera supporters allege; the maximum time would be about six seconds.

Additionally, studies have shown that years after the extending yellow light timing, violation rates remain low. Georgia's traffic fatalities have declined every year since the law changed.

Local government should establish light timing that returns maximum safety, not maximum profit.

Paul Henry


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