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NMA Seeks Extended Light Durations at Intersections

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Nov. 27, 2012—The National Motorists Association (NMA) recently sent an urgent appeal to the Federal Highway Administration to change the current federal guidelines for acceptable yellow light durations at intersections.

The NMA said millions of U.S. drivers risk serious accidents daily due to traffic signals with yellow light timings set too short. Current durations of yellow traffic lights often do not give drivers enough time to stop before turning to red.

"Short yellow lights force many responsible motorists to make split-second decisions that can lead to unwarranted traffic tickets, or worse, intersection collisions," said Gary Biller, president of the NMA. "The current federal guidelines on yellow-light durations consist of inadequate recommendations, not proven engineering requirements. It is a violation of the public trust, and it jeopardizes motorist, cyclist and pedestrian safety."

The NMA’s letter to the Federal Highway Administration, which was sent Nov. 15, cited specific safety benefits of extending the timing traffic signal cycles. According to the NMA, a recent study determined that a one second increase in the duration of yellow light signals reduces intersection collisions by 40 percent. The research concludes that the Federal Highway Administration’s current timing guidelines are inadequate.

The NMA said a new formula developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers should be implemented as the recommended basis for federal yellow light timing requirements. The formula factors in the speed vehicles are traveling as they approach the intersection. Faster travel speeds require longer yellow lights due to greater stopping distances.

"Proper timing of yellow lights is one of the most critical factors in lowering intersection violation and accident rates. There is no federal requirement for determining what minimum safe yellow times should be—just some optional guidance that many red-light camera operators use to justify dangerously short yellows in order to maximize the profits of their programs,” Biller said. “The Federal Highway Administration has an obligation to establish clear safety requirements that eliminate such predatory practices. The National Motorists Association is calling upon the FHWA to do exactly that."

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