• Jul 8th 2010 at 4:20PM
  • 29
It seems most studies of amber lights focus on whether cities are using them to gather revenue. The theory – and let's face it, sometimes the fact – is that the light time is so short that drivers end up tripping the red light camera and getting a fine. Conversely, a new study by the University of Cincinnati and Ohio Department of Transportation has taken a look at how drivers behave when they encounter a yellow light no matter how long it's illuminated.

More than 1,500 drivers were caught on camera in suburban Ohio as they approached high-speed intersections and entered the "dilemma zone." Without offering any hypotheses for the discoveries, a few of the most interesting finds were:
  • Drivers in the left lane – the high speed lane – tended to stop for yellow lights, drivers in the right, slow lane, did not tend to stop.
  • Longer yellow lights tended to have more drivers running them.
  • If the street had a higher posted limit, there was a larger tendency for drivers to go through yellows – more drivers in 55 mph streets ran yellows than those on 50 mph streets.
  • 18-wheelers ran yellow lights more than pickups, SUVs, light trucks and sedans. According to some police records, however, truckers weren't more likely to run or be cited for running red lights.
America's lack of high-speed lane discipline tends to put drivers of different defensive inclinations at different speeds in every lane no matter how many lanes there are. Part of making yellows more predictable has been installing countdown timers at crosswalk signals so drivers can tell how much time they have before the light turns yellow. In our experience, a fair number of drivers either hit their booster rockets and zoom through a green light or start slowing down before the light's even turned yellow. We imagine we'll be seeing more of this kind of research soon enough...

[Source: Kansas.com | Image: Corbis]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      The problem is cops only pull you over for two things, speeding and running stop signs/red lights.

      Sure they'll pull you over for a broken light or something, but they're usually looking for something else when they do that.

      If people go pulled over for rolling through stop signs and right on reds at 15mph+, not properly signaling, tailgating, not staying in the correct lane after turning (left turn? stay in the left most lane, right turn? right most lane, you get the idea but no one does this), and other actual traffic laws, maybe people would follow them a little better.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I do agree that police officers both local and state tend to help create this problem. I've seen State Troopers behind cars/trucks in the far left lane for over a minute and they don't pull them over, they just wait it out or continue on like they dont care.

        To me if states started to pass laws with a decent fine behind them then both state and local police would start to enforce them (money is king after all UGH!).

        Also with the Yellow Lights some if not alot of people "run them" if you will since either
        A) They are unsure how long the yellow light is. Can you stop in time at the speed your going on said road? Do you stomp on your brakes to stop in time but risk being rear ended by the person behind you?
        B) The yellow lights in some area's are shorter than others and dont take into consideration the speed limit of the road they are on.

        For the 18 wheelers of course they will run the yellows most of the time, they can't stop on a dime.
      • 5 Years Ago
      9/10 times, I will simply drive through a yellow light, no need to slam on my brakes, plus I don't know how attentive the person is behind and if they noticed I hit the brakes. and if there is a count down? usually just as you say I hit the "booster rocket". I haven't seen a cop in around 2 week in my town. they are there, just not where I am at.
      • 5 Years Ago
      In California, there is no requirement to stop on a yellow. According the California Vehicle Code, a steady yellow light is simply a warning that the light is about to turn red. So this study is kind of moot and misleading, as it does not apply to all states. California actually posts the vehicle code online, so you can just to read it.


      CVC Division 11 Section 21452. (a) A driver facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow signal is, by that signal, warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red indication will be shown immediately thereafter.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Countdown timers are indeed useful, I will tend to slow down (or coast) before the light even turns yellow, given the time left on the timer and of course my distance + speed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's all fine and dandy. But I just hate those drivers that see the yellow before they reach the "dilemma zone" and blow the the light anyways. In my town, it's not uncommon to see people enter the intersection after the light has turned red. These are just inconsiderate pricks. If it weren't for the pause between the red in one direction and the green in the other, things could be ugly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What really sucks is being behind an 18 wheeler, not terribly close, just close enough to not be able to see the light, and then having him run the light. If there's no one else around you can almost end up running a straight red. Happened to me once, scarred the crap out me. I try to stay out from behind them now, regardless of distance.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Raising the requirements to get a driver's license would address the problem, but given the Insurance Industry's ( who profit from misery and death caused by unqualified people behind the wheel ) lobbying power, I know that's never gonna happen.

      Those of us who posses just a small amount of common sense never enter the "dilemma zone".

      By its very definition, the "dilemma zone" is where one goes as a result of their lack of skill.
        • 5 Years Ago
        upcoming green light.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Now it might be that you do things differently in the US but I was always taught (in Australia) that the yellow light is to tell you that there's a red light coming and to make a intelligent judgement based on your speed, distance from the intersection and the stopping power of your car to decide whether to speed up (though the same rule said you were only meant to go through on a yellow if you were able to do so without speeding up) or stop. The driver is supposed to be intelligent enough to work out which is the safer option based on the above and environmental factors.
        This also explains why 18 wheelers went through on a yellow more, because their stopping distance is much greater than that off lighter cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The first problem is verbiage. [the lack of quality driver training here]
        The transition from green to yellow, means STOP.
        Yellow means you are stopped or in the process of stopping.

        That yellow means you have already made up your mind, because an attentive driver has been watching the road and the upcoming red light, and has already made up the decision as to go or stop.

        Red means it is the other direction's turn.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Indefinite Implosion: And if there is someone driving on your arse. My mum got off a ticket for running a red when she brought to the cop's attention the fact there was some clown tailgating her and stopping wouldn't caused an accident
      • 3 Years Ago
      just says that people who know how to drive, they drive in the left lane and are more cautious. people that don't know how to drive, drive slowly AND run red lights.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not sure what this means. Should I stay out of the left lane if I am going the speed limit? Does that work in a city during gridlock? The dilemma zone is a tough one, if I stop, what about the driver behind me? I am sure more studies are on the way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      From my limited observation in the Cleveland area, there seems to be more drivers stopping for than running lights, since traffic cameras went up. I haven't looked at lane difference. but this could prove interesting.
      • 5 Years Ago
      To me most of the drivers in the left lane...belong in the right lane. I can go out anytime where I live and have to mainly pass cars on the right. It seems the left lane is the new right lane. Gotta love the divided highway but you can't pass anyway b/c two cars will go the same speed side by side for miles (neither quite passing the other).
      • 5 Years Ago
      "America's lack of high-speed lane discipline," seems like everyone knows it, very little cares for it. Then, many often wonders what's causing freeway congestion. Conclusion, American drivers are selfish and arrogant, resulting in being their own victims.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree wholeheartedly. Not to knock the US indiscriminately but driving standards there - especially expressway driving - are absolutely horrendous. I found lane discipline tends to be more adhered to along rural, two-lane Interstate routes, but even then it's easy to encounter some git with a sense of entitlement who sits in the outside overtaking lane doing 50mph and refuses to move over. Once you get closer to major urban areas where the number of lanes increase, lane discipline disappears altogether and becomes pretty much the antithesis of western Europe.
        • 5 Years Ago
        drivers lack merging skills, i think thats why most people just stay in their lane

        many need to know how to slide their cars between 2 cars at speed and while accelerating

        i hate those that enter a highway and STOP at a yield sign losing room to accelerate
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yield does mean slow down or stop.

        I hate it when people stop even if there is no need to do so.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "...only in the US do drivers drive with a sense of entitlement and vindictiveness"

        True, but that's just a symptom of a much larger issue, as "entitlement and vindictiveness" accurately describes this country's foreign policy towards the entire rest of the world.

        Back at the small scale, just yesterday a person in front of me in the left lane slammed on their breaks without warning, came to nearly a complete stop, then veered right across seven lanes of traffic to use the exit ( barely missing several cars that had to do panic stops as not to crash )...important to note there was another exit just few thousand feet down the freeway that could have easily been taken.

        The icing on the cake? There had "God is my co-pilot" and "Bush Channey 04" bumper stickers plus the fish logo thing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

        In all the countries I've driven in the world (Dude, this includes China, eastern Europe and the middle east), only in the US do drivers drive with a sense of entitlement and vindictiveness. Other drivers might drive with less skill and more bravado, but rarely are they selfish like American drivers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        What are you talking about?!?! No lane discipline? I have no idea where you guys are driving, but here in New Jersey there is clear lane discipline.

        Everyone camps the left lane going 50... I pass in the right going faster. It's the "passing lane."
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