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April 20, 2017

Do red lights at intersections mean anything?

by Paul Daniel

From what I’ve seen recently shows drivers care less

I’ve been thinking about doing this blog entry for a while and this morning an experience drove me to the keyboard. I’m stopped at a busy intersection on my way to work. I had just missed the left turn green arrow so I was waiting for traffic to clear and make my turn when this guy behind me honks his horn for me to go. Go, where, there’s lots of traffic here dude and I’m on a motorcycle. The light turns yellow and I wait. Recently I’ve seen too many drivers here in Wisconsin run the red light and I don’t want to get wacked. The guy gets out of his truck and gives me a lecture on how I didn’t have to wait for the green arrow and could have turned on the orange. Not this rider. He also said that I was holding a whole line of vehicles behind him and I should show some courtesy. OK, whatever. When I turned on the next green arrow, guess how many vehicles I was holding up. Yup, just him.

Remembering your driver’s class lessons

The one thing that stands out is to look both ways before proceeding through an intersection. That was over 40 years ago for me and I still remember it although my wife says I forget so many things. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) red light running is defined as, “If a vehicle enters an intersection any time after the signal light has turned red, the driver has committed a violation. Motorists who are inadvertently in an intersection when the signal changes (waiting to turn left, for example) are not red light runners. In locations where a right turn on red is permitted, drivers who fail to come to a complete stop before turning may be considered red light runners. Violations also include people turning right on red at intersections where doing so is prohibited.”

Except in Wisconsin, where motorcyclist are allowed to go through an intersection on a red light. A 2006 state statute says motorcyclists and bicyclists can go through red lights if they believe traffic signals aren’t picking up their presence, if the intersection is free of cross traffic and if they’ve waited at least 45 seconds. You’d be amazed at the cops here who don’t know the statute. I’ve never been stopped but know others that have. I get looks from drivers too.

Smile for the camera

IHHS photo

According to a national telephone survey in 2015 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 94 percent of drivers said it’s unacceptable to go through a red light if it’s possible to stop safely, but 39 percent reported doing so in the past 30 days. The answer for many municipalities has been installing cameras that catch the bad guys. It’s not as simple as just installing a system, state or local laws must authorize enforcement agencies to cite red light violators by mail. The legislation makes the vehicle owner responsible for the ticket. According the IIHS, half of our states have active red light camera programs. Here in Wisconsin we do not.

The red light programs work. A series of IIHS studies in Oxnard, Calif., and Fairfax, Va, found that red light violations were reduced significantly with cameras, about 40%. The program provided a spillover effect over to nearby signalized intersections not equipped with red light cameras. An IIHS review of international red light camera studies concluded that cameras lower red light violations by 40-50 percent. I wish we did have one here in Wisconsin. I’m really cautious now going through intersections, especially on my Busa. So heads up out there. Keeps those eyes moving both ways at intersections.

 

 

 

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