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Link Between the Length of Yellow Lights and St. Petersburg Crashes


Posted on Apr 30, 2013

Drivers are met with green lights, yellow lights, and red signal lights at intersections in Florida every day. When a green light turns yellow, drivers are forced to make quick decisions whether they should go through the intersection or stop suddenly.

Yellow lights have been tied to stopping quickly and getting rear-ended, or speeding up and running a red light, possibly causing a St. Petersburg auto accident. Because 26 percent of St. Petersburg crashes in 2010 occurred at intersections with traffic signals, the city is looking at ways to reduce traffic accidents.

Some city officials are citing studies indicating that longer yellow intervals have reduced red-light running and reduce accidents, so the St. Petersburg City Council is considering lengthening the yellow lights at the 10 intersections where red-light cameras are located. However, other studies show that accidents are reduced for a short-term period, but drivers eventually change their behaviors to the new light timings.

The St. Petersburg city traffic engineers look at visibility, width of intersection, grade of approach and speed limit in determining yellow light times for the city—factors established by the Institute of Traffic Engineers. Throughout St. Petersburg, yellow light times vary from four to five seconds. Joe Kubicki, the city’s director of transportation, said, “You use the formula unless you have a good engineering reason to modify or lengthen the yellow time.”

However, city data shows that a longer yellow light may reduce traffic accidents from red-light running. One red light camera with a 4.3 second yellow light interval caught about three times more red-light runners than a nearby intersection with a five-second yellow light.

The Mallard Law Firm will keep our readers posted on any changes that take place. 

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