Running on Red in Maryland : Would Longer Yellow Traffic Light Times Cut Down on Intersection Accidents?

Maryland drivers are no strangers to this frightening scenario. You’re stopped at a red light in say, Baltimore. Just as the light turns green and your foot hits the gas pedal — another car shoots through the intersection in front of you, running his or her red light. You slam on your brakes, gasp for breath, and thank your lucky stars you weren’t broadsided and hurt, or worse.

As a Baltimore County car accident injury lawyer, I know from work with injured and grieving clients that not everyone is so fortunate in this all-too-common scenario. Motorists who run red lights can cause devastating crashes resulting in motor vehicle damage, bodily injury, and death — all to save a minute and avoid sitting at the traffic light.

Some national transportation experts believe that extending yellow traffic light times might cut down on the incidence of drivers running red lights, and curb not only traffic violations but intersection auto accidents. Opponents believe that drivers would adapt to longer yellow light times, and those inclined to race through intersections to beat the red lights would do so anyway.

Under Maryland traffic law, yellow lights are intended to give drivers time to slow down and warn pedestrians in advance of traffic lights changing. The Md traffic laws state:

(1) Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal is warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red signal, which will prohibit vehicular traffic from entering the intersection, will be shown immediately after the yellow signal. (2) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal…, a pedestrian facing a steady yellow signal is warned that there is not enough time to cross the roadway before a red signal is shown, and a pedestrian may not then start to cross the roadway.

(Source: 2010: Maryland Transportation Code via US Law)

Yellow traffic lights can vary in duration from just a couple seconds to several seconds long. The installation of more traffic cameras — in Maryland and around the country — has become controversial in relation to yellow lights. While proponents of red light and speed cameras believe they save lives, others feel that where yellow lights turn to red quickly, the cameras may entrap drivers who would stop if given more time.

Unfortunately, to many drivers in Maryland and around the US, a yellow traffic light has come to mean “hurry up.” The results of this misinterpretation can be dangerous, damaging, and deadly.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Lessons Learned Abroad: Why Auto Accident Death Rates Are Lower in Europe Than in the U.S. (Sept. 15, 2011)

Deterring Baltimore County Traffic Accidents: Speed Camera Laws Go Into Effect (Oct. 7, 2009)

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Dept of Transportation: Traffic Safety Laws

NHTSA: Driver Education

U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration:

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Traffic Signal Timing Manual

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