Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Yellow simply won't do.

Yellow is passé. It’s out of style. Nobody cares about yellow anymore. Pshaw!

There was a time, however, when yellow could grab people’s attention. Get them to slow down and take notice.

Slow down. Remember when yellow meant slow down so you wouldn’t have to slam on the brakes when the light turned red? Remember when red meant stop?

Many drivers still recognize and abide by the three-colored system designed to ensure traffic safety at intersections. But a new breed of drivers has adopted a system more befitting their fast-paced lifestyle. It works like this.

Green means go. Right now, GO! The instant that a single fragment of emerald ray emits from the light standard standup on the accelerator immediately or face a cacophony of horns from the drivers behind you who have better things to do than to wait 2.3 seconds while you move your foot from the brake to the gas pedal.

Red means stop, but not with the same urgency that green means go. Red must firmly establish itself before its authority is recognized. The first few seconds after a red light appears are a transitional period. A chance for those who are late for work or dinner to pass on through. Think of red in this instance as the new yellow but without all the pretense of caution.

Yellow is a more immediate shade of green.

After yellow lost the power to slow cars down, it served to speed them up so the intersection could be cleared before a traffic infraction would occur. Now, there is no fear of committing infractions of this sort.

It’s almost impossible for police to effectively control red light violations using standard observational techniques. A lack of manpower and other resources make it impractical to position an officer at busy intersections. That’s why many cities, including Chicago, are turning to technology to curb the selfish tendencies of commuters.

Automated systems that use traffic cameras to take pictures of cars as they pass through red lights and then generate tickets that are sent through the mail are having a positive effect in many communities. Mark Brown of the Sun Times has pointed out a couple of cases where the wrong car was identified by the camera, but cases of mistaken license plates have been rare.

There is also concern that cameras cause rear end accidents as people slam on their brakes when they notice a camera. Proponents of the cameras acknowledge that this does occur when they are first installed, but people soon adjust to their presence and do what they were supposed to be doing all along, slow down on yellow and stop on red.

Public surveillance cameras often cause people to conjure up Orwellian scenarios and blame them on the government’s insatiable desire to control the lives of their minions. But the need for traffic cameras actually arises from the inability of drivers to control themselves.

Others protest that such measures are implemented underhandedly as a revenue-generating source for municipalities, when in fact, this is just a secondary benefit. City services cost money. Nobody wants his or her taxes raised. So if a city’s financial needs can be met in part by shaking down scofflaws, then all the better.

And as for the colorblind excuse, approximately 8 percent of men and .5 percent of women do have congenital red-green color-deficient vision, but that limitation should be effectively overcome by simply remembering that the red light is always the one on top.

It’s nearly impossible for any reasonable person to argue that they have the right to run a red light. Still for some, a yellow light just doesn't jibe with their plans and there's always time to sneak one more through (them) once it turns to red. It would be nice if a $75 citation could be waiting for them when they get home 2 minutes earlier than they would have had they stopped when they were supposed to.


JeromeProphet said...

Yellow has become the more immediate shade of green as you state in your article.

There are so many distractions riding along in the average car now it's no wonder why people aren't paying attention to the changing lights.

Something I can't stand are the unsignaled lane changers. It take so little in way of effort to warn those around you that you're planning to change lanes - but for some it just goes against their grain to be so concerned about other people's safety, and their own.


Anonymous said...

Red means stop.
Green means go.
Yellow means go faster.