Are Yellow Traffic Light Times Safe in Lubbock? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/1/07

Are Yellow Traffic Light Times Safe in Lubbock?

A shorter yellow light might just guarantee more tickets to the city of Lubbock once those red light cameras are installed.  But we have been guaranteed that is not going to happen because the yellow lights are already properly timed.

A NewsChannel 11 investigation finds out that is not the case. We are finding this out just months before our red light cameras will go up at a dozen intersections. Some people fear that once those cameras go up, the city will shorten them to get more tickets.  But what if that yellow just isn't long enough to begin with?

How long is a yellow light?

We know we only have so much of it before the light turns red.  But you may not know the timing of that yellow is everything.  

"A yellow light time is important because it gives people an adequate amount of time to stop before they get to an intersection and gives them adequate time to drive on through the intersection," said Lubbock Traffic Engineer Jere Hart.

Hart says there is a rough equation to figure out how long that yellow light should be. In fact, in this report we found in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal dated December 20th 2006, Hart said that our yellow light times in Lubbock follow the national standard of one second of yellow for every 10 miles per hour of the posted speed limit.

"But what happens is, if you set that (yellow light) too short, people don't get enough time to safely get through the intersection," said Hart.

What if we told you that right now, you don't have enough time? We are taking you around town to 12 intersections where a red light camera is going up and we timed those yellow lights. 

We first looked at 82nd and University, where the westbound traffic speed limit is posted at 50 miles per hour. That means according to the national standard, this yellow light should be 5 seconds long.  We timed it being 4.3 seconds.  It came up more than half a second short.

The yellow light at 82nd and Frankford, the northbound traffic, was 4 seconds long and the eastbound traffic was 4 seconds too. Both should have lasted 4.5 seconds. 

The yellow light at Milwaukee and 19th looking at the eastbound traffic. The posted speed limit is 55 mph. We timed this light to be 4.4 seconds long, almost a whole second off. 

Parkway and Zenith, where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, the yellow light was timed to be 2.9 seconds long.  According to Hart, that is not enough time to safely come to a stop or get through the intersection.

"Should it be 3.5 seconds long?," asked Jones. 

"It should be 3.5 seconds but that's a good one that we may go back and add 1/2 second or something like that to it," said Hart.

Other intersections we found with short yellow lights are 4th Street and Frankford, Avenue Q South Drive and I-27, Avenue A South Drive and Slaton Highway, 79th and Slide, and 66th and I-27.

We found 8 out of those 12 intersections where the yellow light was not long enough.

"I haven't looked in detail at all of them but I'd be happy to look at the information you put together," said Hart.

Hart guarantees that before those red light cameras go up, the yellow light we timed will be fixed.   We will also make sure that happens.

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