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Are Governments "Gaming" Traffic Lights against Drivers?

Posted by Sean A. Black | Aug 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

An article in the National Journal addresses an issue relating to  yellow lights. Some local and state governments have shortened the duration of yellow lights at intersections.

Shorter yellow light durations are dangerous for drivers but they bump up fine revenue for running red lights.

A few states, like New Jersey, have set out the duration of traffic lights in their law.  In that state, the minimum yellow time is 3 seconds at intersections where traffic is moving at 25 miles per hour, and the time goes up by a half-second for every 5 mph increase in traffic speed. So for intersections where traffic is approaching at 55 mph, the yellow light must be on for a minimum of 6 seconds.

In states like Georgia where there is not a specific statute setting the interval, there are only guidelines from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices which generally recommends a yellow light duration of three to six seconds.  OCGA 40-14-22 sets the DOT's authority to regulate signal timing and incorporates the references to the national engineering standards.

Even where the duration is within that range, it may be insufficient because of the traffic patterns and speeds.

When the interval is set too low, it places drivers in a dangerous situation.  The driver who has a traffic light turn yellow in front of them can either slam on his or her brakes inviting themselves to be rear-ended or the driver can attempt to make it through the intersection risking a ticket or drivers entering from the sides who haven't allowed enough time for the intersection to clear.

How about it?  Are there intersections in Northeast Georgia at which the traffic lights change way too fast?

About the Author

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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