There are a couple of blogs which have been screaming at me to write them for years now and I really should get them both out there so here is my take on traffic lights.
When the light goes to amber as you approach, your speed and likely reaction times should govern whether or not you can safely stop. The reaction time doesn’t include checking your mirror the see how closely following traffic is because you won’t have time for that. If you are driving with the habit of checking behind you as you approach traffic lights you would know if you can brake heavily (i.e. no-one behind you) or if you would need to consider the tailgater who would be unlikely to avoid crashing into you. Either way this governs whether you opt to stop as much as how much space you actually do need to stop.
Traffic lights generally are timed pretty well to allow you to come to a halt from the speed limit at gentle deceleration aided by the brake. This is probably true for 30mph and 40 mph limits but only if you see the amber light as the signal to stop. If, like a lot of idiots, you think this means “hit the gas pedal there is plenty of time”, one day you will arrive to find me in front of you. I would most likely have been already moving because I was braking but not stopped just as my light changed to red/amber so I lifted the brake foot and carried on over the line now accelerating under a green light.
My dash cam will show that I crossed the junction stop line on a green light and your insurers will get the full bill for my repairs and any injuries I suffer. As this has happened twice to me recently and only because I have lightning reactions did not result in a crash, I have not been able to test the option of claiming off someone else’s insurers without going through my own insurance company. (This means you won’t lose any no claims discount)
Ask any traffic cop or fireman about the last time they had to dig someone out of a wreck because some moron jumped the light and you might reconsider thinking you can just make it and stop rather than risk your life or kill somebody you don’t know.
I must say here that I live in the West Midlands and drivers in this neck of the woods seem to see traffic lights going to red as some kind of personal affront as almost none of them take any notice of the amber. I’ve lost any kind of count of the number of times I have rolled gently to a halt at the red light only to be passed in the next lane by more than two other drivers going at it hell for leather. They must have seen the lights changing from more than sufficient distance away to safely stop yet they carry on anyway.
Last word on this is to traffic agencies responsible for timing the lights on faster stretches of road. There is a set not far from where I live on a 60mph limit road and even on maximum possible braking I cannot stop within the time allowed. Fortunately it is mostly not an issue because hardly any drivers can manage to get above 40mph on the approach but even that speed means the time allowed dictates you having to almost perform an emergency stop and the red will already be glowing before you stop.
® Rick Grain 3 December 2016
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