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Why Chicago has Extremely Short Yellow Lights

The city of Chicago made a profit of nearly $8 million after just a few months of installing a stoplight with a yellow light that is a fraction of a second shorter than the recommended 3 seconds. There are no federal laws that regulate a time span for yellow lights. However, the United States Department of Transportation advises for cities to allocate 3-6 seconds for a yellow light. Starting at the beginning of 2014, Chicago began implementing the shorter yellow lights. Some experts believe that the new shorter light is strictly to produce revenue for the city by catching people on camera who run red lights.

The red light cameras have been around for some time now. Starting back in 1990, cities slowly began installing red light cameras in hopes that less people would run red lights. The outcome resulted in fewer red lights run, but mixed results in safety hazards. Several studies have shown that the red light cameras reduced fatalities and accidents while other studies show that the fear of being caught on the cameras has resulted in more collisions. Thus, the red light cameras are not proven to improve safety in drivers. But, they are proven to heavily increase revenue in the cities that utilize them.

Chicago Yellow Light

The city of Chicago has written an additional 77,000 citations for being caught running red lights. Starting in 2014, these citations coincide with the implementation of the shorter the yellow lights. Many Chicagoans have argued that these tickets are unfair because of the short notice they are given to stop.

The question we are left with is how to safely handle these short yellow lights without running the risk of getting a ticket or getting in a car accident. There are several things that drivers can keep in mind while approaching stop lights including: how long the light has been green, how long the pedestrians still have to cross, and the speed in which you are traveling.

When approaching a light from a distance, be aware of how long the light has been green. If the light has been green when you first see it from a distance, then it’s important to maintain a speed so that you could stop. If the light is freshly green, then it is safe to proceed at a normal speed. Also, the pedestrian lights are good indicators as to when the light will change from green to yellow. If the time for pedestrians has ended or is very close to ending then the light is likely to turn within a few seconds. Don’t get hung up on this or avert your eyes from the road, but if it within your vision then it is something that can be accounted for. Lastly, your speed while crossing an intersection is crucial. Most people falsely believe that once you see a yellow light, you should speed up to try and make it through before turning red. This unsafe practice may result in a ticket. If the light has turned red while you are attempting to speed through a light, then you can be ticketed $100 if caught on camera. Maintaining a safe speed while approaching a light will result in a better opportunity to avoid a ticket or an accident.

Nevertheless, the fact that Chicago has implemented a yellow light that is under the recommended 3 seconds is frustrating. But, until a mandate is created for the minimum time to be allocated for yellow lights, there is not much of an argument. It is the driver’s responsibility to be alert of light changes and they will be held accountable.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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