Caution! I Need More Time to Be Distracted

They call it the “dilemma zone.” That point in time when you’re driving down the street and the light turns to yellow. You have exactly 1/2 second to decide if you’re going to run the light, or slam on your brakes. Do you have time? What does your internal clock tell you? Because we all know that yellow lights stay on for five seconds.

Give or take a click or two.

What would you do if you didn’t know how long the yellow light would stay on? I’m betting you would stop – better safe than sorry, right?

MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) is changing traffic signal times in response to a new Federal study that found we need more time to stop. It’s not because of what we drive, because newer cars are getting better at stopping.

MoDOT’s Tom Blair said, “Cars do stop, just as well or better than they have in the past. [Chris Hayes interjected] This is our problem. [Blair added] This is our problem. Our motorists, myself included, we need more time to stop. We have too many things that distract us from doing our due diligence which is being an alert driver.”

So MoDOT is adapting to how we react when approaching an intersection. Engineers call it the dilemma zone. We all get that feeling when the light turns yellow, ‘can I make it?’ A lot of it depends on how fast you’re going. So MoDOT is changing yellow lights to make it comfortable for you to stop and they’re basing it on the average speeds people are going.”


MoDOT implemented the longer yellow light experiment at an intersection in Arnold, Missouri to see if fewer people would be caught running a red light.

Last May, Arnold cited 709 people for running a red light on camera.
May 2011? Arnold cited 17 people.

So, will MoDOT implement longer yellow lights throughout Missouri?

MoDOT’s Tom Blair cautioned, “I think the jury’s still out, Chris, on the reduction of red light violations that we’ve seen in 141 in the city of Arnold. We have to see 2-3 months, 6 months, a year from now, does that continue to produce that? Or do all the motorists just re-adapt and now they start running the new red light time?

And that’s precisely what I think will happen. I think the lower number of people caught running red lights in the example above is because the longer duration allowed more people to cross the intersection before it turned red. I also think it temporarily confused people and they slowed down out of caution.

I also firmly think that people WILL adapt and we will soon be back to the exact same situation we’re in now – people will take chances because people inherently think they can get away with it. So overall? I don’t think lengthening the amount of time the yellow light is on will make a huge difference one way or another.

But the part that really gets my blood boiling about this entire piece? MoDOT wants to lengthen the yellow lights because “we have too many things that distract us from doing our due diligence which is being an alert driver.”

Because we’re distracted with something other than driving, we need more time to stop.

What. The. Hell.

So, in answer to the fact that too many people are distracted when they drive is to give people MORE time to finish what they’re doing and bring their attention back to driving.

Because driving is a SECONDARY priority, you see.

Are you kidding me??

Here’s an idea – CUT OUT THE DISTRACTIONS AND FOCUS ON DRIVING, MORONS. WHY must we allow for these dangerous distractions? Why must we excuse people’s responsibility to drive safely? Why don’t we focus on educating and warning people about keeping their eyes on the road instead of pandering to the idiots who would prefer to use their cars as mobile offices?

It drives me bonkers whenever we give people an excuse not to take responsibility for their actions and choices.

Making the yellow light sequence longer is not going to force people to become better drivers. They will just adapt to the longer time period and continue to be piss-poor drivers. Because bottom line? People nowadays don’t think about how their bad habits will affect other people. Because the world nowadays is all about ME, ME, ME.

People need to start caring, and respecting, other people. We need to start training people, because the message got lost somewhere over the years, to be courteous and polite to each other, both on and off the road. Pandering to people’s bad choices will never solve the problem.

Any problem.