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Stoplights to Mete Out Punishment? 995

Posted by michael
from the stale-green dept.
gilrain writes "The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that traffic engineers have created a stoplight that deals with speeding. According to the article, 'It senses when a speeder is approaching and metes out swift punishment. It doesn't write a ticket. It immediately turns from green to yellow to red.' This is not just a prototype: it is in use now at an intersection in the Bay Area. Does stopping speeders before others serve a purpose other than petty revenge? Is it even safe to change expected stoplight patterns, especially for drivers in a hurry?"
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Stoplights to Mete Out Punishment?

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  • by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:36PM (#8818001) Journal
    I know I'll get flamed for this, but I see no reason why lights can't be changed to red to slow down flagrant offenders.

    Still, one thing to be really clear about is (a) don't set it up so that if you really speed you make it through the yellow, but (b) don't make it so far away that you catch someone ahead of the speeder with the red light!

    By the way, I've had lights change to red on me for no apparent reason, and wondered if this policy was already implemented. It was in the Bay Area, but not Pleasanton.

    • by Rinikusu (28164) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:40PM (#8818090)
      I'll go along with this ONLY if a spotlight also illuminates the offending car and it becomes legal to exit your own vehicle and pummel the offending driver for fucking up traffic for the rest of us.

      Isn't this supposed to be covered by, I dunno, speeding tickets and cops? If speeding tickets aren't the proper deterrent, maybe we should stiffen the penalties if we wish to reduce speeding. Or maybe we should raise the speed limits.
      • This would be nice, if we could make it similar to how the pisser in the pool turns purple. The car becomes some obnoxious color so that we can honk and flash (fingers).
      • by the_2nd_coming (444906) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:48PM (#8818267) Homepage
        it is a behavioral punishment.

        if you always get a negative reinforcement for an action, operant conditioning will cause the drivers to slow down. tickets and cops are not regular enough to train people to stop.
        • by trentblase (717954) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:59PM (#8818468)
          Unfortunately, there have been studies that show that drivers will drive at what they consider a safe speed regardless of the speed limit. Tickets are less of a deterrent and more of a revenue source for underfunded municipalities. Check out http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irrel.html (although you always have to consider the source in any study).
          • by Glonoinha (587375) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:20PM (#8818795) Journal
            That is exactly why I envision this working. It is Pavlovian-esque, subliminal, always present, and there is a direct link between action and consequence.

            Normally when you speed nothing bad happens. You don't generally get stopped, you don't generally get a ticket. With a single punishment for every 300 times you do something, there is a disconnect.

            With the light trick it happens every time. By trying to go faster you are forced to wait out the light so you get where you are going later than you would have had you driven the speed limit. Every time. Which sucks. So you learn. Fast.

            People slow down in town without those pesky (and expensive) tickets, cops are free to go do real police work catching bad guys, damn - I think this is brilliant. Sure beats getting a $100 photo-radar ticket in the mail.
            • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc@car[ ]et.net ['pan' in gap]> on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:36PM (#8819014) Homepage
              but can we define speeding?

              While speed limits make sense in many situations, they don't always.

              There are plenty of places that I can point to where speed limits are entirely too low. That is to say it is perfectly safe given normal driving conditions (no fog, dry or even slightly wet roads) to go 15-20 MPH over the posted speed limit.

              This is both in town and out. In fact, I can say from my own experience, as someone who regularly "speeds" that about 95% of the time that I have had a close call with a pedestrian or another car it has not involved speed, but rather has involved crowded intersections where traffic is moving well below posted speed limits where it is needed for the driver to track moving objects in several places.
              (Cars in 2 other lanes of trafic, and pedestrians walkin gou tinto the street with abandon etc)

              The simple fact is that speed limits are usually sweeping "30 in the city" which are really only needed in certain places within the city. Most wide city roads are no more dangerous at 45 than they are at 30, except when traffic is too heavy to do 45 anyway, in which case it self limits to safe speeds anyway.

              All in all I agree this is a fine solution to real speeding... but generally speaking I think that speed limits are set too low for normal conditions and I shudder to think what decreasing the speeds people drive in such a hevay handed and sweeping way will do to traffic around here during the time periods at the ends of rush hour where speeds are starting to naturally pick back up.

              -Steve
            • by reverendG (602408) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:51PM (#8819198) Homepage
              With a single punishment for every 300 times you do something, there is a disconnect.

              Obviously you've never gone driving with my girlfriend (or someone like her)...

              Watch out for the yellow light! ... Aren't you going a little fast? ... That guy has his turn signal on ... You're a little close, could you back off?

              She has other winning attributes, but sometimes I really wish I had the Homer-mobile. The funniest thing is that she gives me a hard time about my road rage, and I'm fine when she's not around!
            • by Adriax (746043) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:56PM (#8819268)
              Normally when you speed nothing bad happens. You don't generally get stopped, you don't generally get a ticket. With a single punishment for every 300 times you do something, there is a disconnect.

              I hit a deer at 75 on the interstate once, now I generally drive around 5mph slower than the speed limit.

              See, life threatening situations can cause a drop in average speed a lot better than tickets ever will, so maybe they should setup a system that releases deer when it detects an oncomming speeding car.
        • by dr_canak (593415) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:24PM (#8818846)
          It is punishment,

          but it is not "negative reinforement." Negative reinforcement is removing something from the environment (Negative) to increase a behavior (Reinforcement).

          This would be considered "Positive Punishment." Introducing something in the environment (Positive; in this case a ticket for running the red light) to decrease a behavior (Punishment; in this case speeding).

          The changing of the light is the discriminative stimulus letting the driver know they are about to be punished if they run the light.

          There ya go, 3 free Intro Psych credits ;-)
          jeff
        • by infinite9 (319274) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:33PM (#8818973)
          tickets and cops are not regular enough to train people to stop.


          It doesn't matter. This will go over like a lead baloon. Cops don't want people to slow down. How would they raise revenue? If cops really wanted to stop speeders, all they have to do is drive one marked police car though the area at the posted speed limit. No one will pass them. Instead, they hide in alleys and behind bushes waiting to jump out and fine people. Isn't it obvious what their real motivation is?
          • by ChaosDiscord (4913) on Friday April 09, 2004 @05:02PM (#8820128) Homepage Journal

            While true, actual implementation would require an unfeasible number of police and police cars to maintain a regular presence. So, given the limited resources, let's find another option.

            Instead, they hide in alleys and behind bushes waiting to jump out and fine people. Isn't it obvious what their real motivation is?

            Actually, the motiviation of "we must reduce speeding" could also describe their actions. You know cops are, as you phrase it, hiding in alleys and behind bushes. You don't know which alleys and bushes. To be safe, you need to treat all alleys and bushes as suspect. The result: they effectively cover more area than they can afford. If the cops were always easily visible you would have no incentive to not speed; instead you've have incentive to slow down when you saw the police car. That completely defeats the purpose.

            One might point out that it doesn't entirely work, as people regularlly speed. Possible reasons: 1. The speeder has decided that the risk of being cause multiplied by the cost of being caught is worth the benefits of driving faster, or 2. the person has bad judgement. This doesn't eliminate the logic from the enforcement side.

    • by jamonterrell (517500) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:44PM (#8818181)
      The point is that they believe the risks involved in changing the light are outweighed by the potential that it will cause mass reform in regards to speeding. They think that this will save more accidents and lives by slowing everyone down.

      I think this is poposterous. Not only will it not slow people down other than while approaching lights they've remembered do this, just to speed through even faster when they get close enough to get away with it. It's been proven by scientific studies that people are more likely to speed due to a stopsign or stoplight because the subconciously feel the need to make up for lost time.

      There are far too many risks to just implement this willy-nilly. The parent brings up a good point with timing, how can you be sure you won't cause an accident by going red so quickly that they can't stop? People are not going to be prepared for this behavior, it's likely to cause mass confusion and accidents during it's implementation.

      I'd rather see automated ticket-writing machines than this... as much as I'm against automated ticket-writing.

      Jamon
      • by tsg (262138) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:52PM (#8818340)
        They think that this will save more accidents and lives by slowing everyone down.

        Except that:
        The punitive nature of the signal on Vineyard appears to have the united support of neighbors and the Police Department,
        which hasn't seen an unusual number of accidents on the route but envisions a low-cost way to make people feel safe.

        In other words, it's fixing a problem that doesn't exist and is only meant to make people feel better.

    • I saw a traffic light working exactly as described in Italy more than 8 years ago in a mountain locality.

      It was tuned to become red if the speed of the car approaching was more than the 50 Km/h allowed in the town.

      It has a strong psycologic effect :)
    • by Eagle5596 (575899) <[slashUser] [at] [5596.org]> on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:17PM (#8818742)
      They have had these for a LONG time in my home town. They don't work, the speeders end up either running the red light, or gunning it and making through the yellow. The end result? Speeders pass, and everyone else is punished.

      Things like this are a Good Idea(tm) in theory, but when put into practice fall quite short of the mark.

      Additionally, their triggers are often set to unreasonable levels, such as 5 miles over the speed limit, which can easily happen due to sensor differences and upward drift of speed in between glances.
    • This is a good idea behaviorally anyways... but if these intersections have the same "advances" infra-red sensors (I would bet) that were put in place not too long ago for "safety" reasons it will just be another thing people will abuse.

      If you think the average joe will slow down, a sadist will speed up and just run the red, especially since the consequences are only effective if the person cares enough to break one law, but to follow another without repricussions. I dunno about you, but when I'm driving
    • by John Courtland (585609) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:40PM (#8819071)
      No way... The key is proper civil engineering. You have to build the infastructure properly to handle the load. This includes light timings and placements, road sizes and turning lanes, pedestrian foot traffic, etc. You also have to take into account the psyhcology of the motorists that will travel on the roadways. You can't force people to change, so why not make a better system? Instead of spending tax money on ridiculous schemes to "stop" speeding, make it possible to speed. Make it safe to travel 80mph. People can do it, it just takes training.

      Part of the problem with speeding (in fact, I'd go so far as to say most of the problem) is the ease at which motorists can obtain driving privilidges. It costs next to nothing, the DMV's are so overworked in metropolitian areas that the "barrier for entry", is VERY low. As a good anecdotal example, I had to take my driving test twice. I took one in the boondocks (no wait time) and one in the city (4 hour wait time for the test alone, 7 to actually complete the license). Here's the run down of my experiences:

      Boondocks (where I failed):
      I had to, in no particular order -
      back around a corner,
      park on both an uphill and a downhill grade,
      drive along streets with varying speed limits of 20-45mph
      park in a parking lot
      there was more to the test, but I failed by rubbing on the curb during downhill parking (I guess that's a "dangerous action", and considered an instant failure. Oh well.)
      total time elapsed: > 30 minutes not including what would come after the failure.

      City: back around a corner
      drive on one 20mph street
      total time elapsed: < 5 minutes.

      As you can see, the test where there were no people waiting was FAR more involved and probably a better test of my driving ability, although I still claim shenanigans on the curb thing, dangerous my ass... Any how, make it more difficult to get it, like in Germany, where license costs are almost two orders of magnitude more expensive than ours are. And they test to make sure you know your machine and your rules. (As an aside, I say the German idea of "road etiquette" should be adopted as soon as possible in the States. Pass on the right my ass. Once you hit your intended crusing speed, hit the right lane. Pass only on the left. Perfection if I've ever seen it.)

      But regardless, I will concede that for the foreseeable future, there will be jackasses who absolutely have to get ahead, feel the need to swerve in and out of traffic because they just saw the "Fast and the Furious", etc. I say, make it easy for them to do it so they stay the hell away from motorists who are safe and conscientious, while still allowing Joe Average to get where he needs to go in a reasonable amount of time without the hassle of stop and go.
      • My Driving Test (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Simonetta (207550) on Friday April 09, 2004 @04:34PM (#8819728)
        I got my driver's license in Louisana in 1973. A school friend offered me a ride home and mentioned that she needed to stop at the Motor Vehicles to get some paperwork.
        I thought that I would use the opportunity to get a learner's permit. I filled out the papers and took the eyetest. Then the written test with pictures of the correct answer in order to aid the large number of people in Louisana who can't read.
        As soon as I passed the written, the state trooper stood up and said 'Ready to drive?'. I borrowed the keys to my friend's car and very slowly and carefully drove around the block. Thank god it was an automatic transmission.
        I thought that I was doing OK until the last stretch of the block which was an expressway. I actually got up to about 45 MPH and then pulled back into the Motor Vehicles lot and cut the engine.
        The state trooper started to write something on the form and then just looked at me and said "Girlie, You don't drive worth a piece of shit! You'se lucky you didn't get somebody killed back there! Well, I'm gonna give you your license anyway, but I strongly suggest that you learn how to drive!"
        I went in, completed the papers, paid the fees, took the photo, and became a fully registered driver in the great state of Louisana.
        When I got home I started laughing and couldn't stop for ten minutes.

        I had never driven a car before in my life!

        (But I had read a book on it at the library.)
  • great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wankledot (712148) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:36PM (#8818007)
    That's good, instead of speeding, now they can speed *and* run a red light. I hope it's timed so that the light is far enough away that they have time to stop, and not run through it.
    • I should add that the light is 350 feet away, and if the speeder is going 60MPH, that's 88ft/sec, giving them just enough room and time to speed up and run the light when they see it change.
    • Re:great! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by realdpk (116490)
      This is one of the problems with a society that derives a significant portion of its revenue from crime (through fines). Anything they can do to tack on more charges just lines their budget.
    • California (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:41PM (#8818123)
      IIRC in california they already let cars run red lights if they are turning right, under the "pedestrian culling" program.
    • Re:great! (Score:4, Funny)

      by bmwm3nut (556681) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:17PM (#8818743)
      That's good, instead of speeding, now they can speed *and* run a red light

      or you could speed up and go fast enough that the light looks green to you in your frame of reference :)
  • If the driver is all ready speeding, what is going to stop him/her from blowing through the red light. Seems like a possibly dangerous way to deal with the problem.
    • Well, I assume the light won't immediately turn green for the crossing direction--it'll just be red for both directions at the same time.
    • Re:Danger (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mattintosh (758112)
      It's called "thinning the herd." If you cause enough accidents, the number of people that speed in these areas WILL go down.

      I bet it's the all-powerful casketmakers' lobby behind this... Get your tinfoil hat.
    • Re:Danger (Score:4, Insightful)

      by the_2nd_coming (444906) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:42PM (#8818142) Homepage
      most people speed... but most people obey the traffic signals as well.

      if the traffic signals stop rewarding speeders by making them miss a light, then the speeders will slow down.
  • Great idea.... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Jim Starx (752545)
    So instead of just speeders we'll have speeders that run red lights....
  • Old Tech (Score:5, Informative)

    by BillFarber (641417) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:37PM (#8818028)
    In the town where I grew up about 20 years ago, there was a light that did that. It was on a 25 MPH road, and if you were going faster than 28 or so, it would turn red. We would go out of our way to avoid that light.
    • by greppling (601175) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:53PM (#8818373)
      Where I live (Germany), we have plenty of such traffic lights. Contrary to the sensationalist /. reply, this hasn't caused any accident or has made people start running the red lights by habit. To the contrary, they work well.

      An effctive alternative is a traffic light that is red and turn green a fixed amount of time after an approaching car has come to a certain distance. Those who were going too fast have to stop, others can drive on smoothly.

    • Re:Old Tech (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zeromemory (742402)
      I agree that this seems to be an old technology.

      While I was visiting Portugal during the winter, I ran into many traffic lights setup in a similar fashion. They were a necessity: often times parts of a major road would run right through the center of a town. If speeding cars were allowed to pass through (mostly empty roads in the country, so speeding was not uncommon), they would put the townsfolk walking around in a lot danger.
  • by glomph (2644) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:37PM (#8818031) Homepage Journal
    The office of homeland security has determined that the Enemies of America (R) are using the public streets, and as such, these must be closely controlled, if not eliminated altogether. Dissent only helps the terrorists, and shows that you are not a true Patriot(R).
  • by Frizzle Fry (149026) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:37PM (#8818032) Homepage
    It would certainly piss me off if some guy was speeding ahead of me and caused the light ahead of us to turn red, stopping both of us. People on the road get mad at other drivers too often already; do we really need to give people another excuse to get mad at someone, blaming "that idiot speeder" for making them late?
    • Hear! Hear!

      It's intrinsically wrong to punish other people for one person's crime. One idiot blazes through a bunch of traffic but everyone has to stop for his speed-induced red light? Aren't there enough causes of road rage already?
    • by bladernr (683269) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:45PM (#8818192)
      It would certainly piss me off if some guy was speeding ahead of me and caused the light ahead of us to turn red, stopping both of us.

      But isn't peer pressure a good motivator? Now, speeding will not only get you more redlights (making it, in fact, take longer to get anywhere the faster you go), but you also run the risk of being the jackass that stopped all traffic.

      Seems to me that this solves the speeding problem in a way that doesn't involve fines, which have had almost no effect.

      • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:07PM (#8818589) Homepage
        You're missing an important thing about peer pressure. You have to care what your peers think for it to work. In heavy traffic in a large city, people do obnoxious shit all the time. They do it because nobody they'll ever speak to will see it.

        I heard a related funny story a few weeks ago. The police have these trailer units that detect speed and usually just show the number to make people aware of how fast they're going. The new ones check if you're speeding and take a picture of the back of the car as it passes and the owner of that license plate is issued a ticket (they do the same thing with stoplight mounted systems, but these are mobile for smaller towns). Someone with huge brass ones stole the license plate off of the back of the trailer. They put the plate on their own car and drove in front of the trailer a dozen times at 100 MPH. The next week a dozen reckless driving tickets were delivered to the police department. I hope it's true.

        All this stuff is just another step towards our 24 hour survailance. "If you're not a criminal, then you won't have anything to hide."

        -B
      • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:12PM (#8818659) Journal
        Seems to me that this solves the speeding problem in a way that doesn't involve fines, which have had almost no effect.


        Hehehe. Iduno about where you're from, but here in San Francisco (and much of California), traffic laws aren't about solving "the speeding problem." They're about solving the budget problem. Fines are designed to not solve the speeding problem, as that would reduce their ability to fine...
      • ...The problem of speeding..

        Laws against speeding are stupid. See this report by the US Department of Transportation [ibiblio.org].

        In a nutshell: people ignore speed limits and drive the speed they feel is safe, regardless of what the speed limit is.

        As a result of this, it can be inferred that speed limits (for the most part--though there are exceptions) are set unreasonably low and as such serve no true purpose other than to generate revenue. It seems to me that laws that exist for no other reason than to fund th
    • by Dutchmaan (442553)
      Yeah sure you may be made late by a speeder.. on the other hand you may get a bonus green light from a speeder on the intersecting road.

      I can also see this system training people to apply a burst of speed once they get to a certain point before the intersection, after the timing of the light has subconciously set in to the brain.
  • This reminds me... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:38PM (#8818035)
    Of the Dukes of Hazard where the local pig... er umm Sheriff had a pop-up Stop sign to charge passerbys and new residents.

    It was deemed crooked by the show, and it's crooked now.
  • So when the light turns red early, does it give a green to the next in line? Sounds like a recipe for disater.
  • Bad Idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Metallic Matty (579124) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:38PM (#8818042)
    Speeding is a habit, and another related habit is that of running red lights quickly after a yellow (ie, its yellow when they see it, so it MUST be yellow when they go through it.) I've seen quite a few near misses because of people burning through a sudden red becuase they'd rather not have to slow down.
  • The Result: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alethes (533985) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:38PM (#8818044)
    This will just mean more people running red lights. That could mean more accidents, or it may not, just like speeding causes accidents sometimes and sometimes it doesn't. The end result is that it doesn't really accomplish anything; it just converts the offense.
  • What a bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mindless4210 (768563) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:39PM (#8818058) Homepage Journal
    That seems incredibly unsafe. Not only could it cause a serious accident, think about what it's going to do to traffic. Especially in a major city like San Francisco, you've gotta have coordinated traffic lights or the streets will be a mess.
  • Precisely how is this stoplight punishing anyone? All it seems to be doing is making the next intersection a red light so that the driver slows down and (hopefully) stops. If the driver chooses to subsequently run the red light, well, there's nothing special about this light over any other red light.

    This is no different than metering lights on freeway onramps that control traffic flow. This one just happens to pay attention to speeders.

  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:39PM (#8818064) Homepage
    Does stopping speeders before others serve a purpose other than petty revenge?

    Well, y'know, there's that whole enforcement of the law thing. Unless that falls under 'petty revenge' in your book. One might also imagine that it'd be effective in encouraging the typical driver to actually obey posted speed limits (though I can't speak for the asshats who'll take it upon themselves to try and 'beat the system' by speeding faster or running the light.)

    Is it even safe to change expected stoplight patterns, especially for drivers in a hurry?

    Oh, heaven forfend that drivers be expected to pay attention to the road and traffic signals, especially so when they're in a hurry and thus simply have no choice but to violate traffic laws! Gee, officer, I just wasn't expecting that kid to cross the road--and I was in a hurry, so you can hardly blame me for it!

    Just because it's easy to get away with speeding doesn't mean it's legal. Just because you're busy, late, or otherwise incapable of managing your life and time in a reasonable fashion doesn't mean that it's somehow more okay for you to speed than somebody who speeds for the hell of it. The fact that you can manufacture any number of scenarios detailing How This Can Go Wrong doesn't change the fact that the person triggering the system is violating traffic laws in the first place. Try following traffic laws. Seriously. You'd be amazed at how well the universe keeps from collapsing on itself when one follows the speed limit, signals lane changes, and maintains adequate braking distance.

    On a side note, these aren't all that new--they have 'em in Alexandria, VA, and Bethesda has something similar (warning lights flash at you if you're going too fast.)

    • If you're driving the speed limit, but the jackass ahead of you is speeding - you may just get stuck at every damn light.

      Don't get me wrong - I agree with you... it's hard to come up with any good reason why this isn't a good idea. Follow the damn law.
    • by Mattintosh (758112) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:53PM (#8818375)
      Traffic laws are meant to be broken. Want proof? Look at how many times local law enforcement gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar, changing speed limits, moving stop signs, and in general, making traffic laws become a big fat cash cow instead of a safety precaution.

      Want a real safety precaution? Scare people straight. Make all the roads' speed limits something like the "safe and prudent" stuff they use in remote rural areas. Then, impose a severe penalty for unsafe driving. If you cause an accident, you lose your license for a year. Cause another one, make it 5 years. Drive without a license? No license ever again, and 1 year in prison. Drunk driving? Go for it, but stay in your lane and don't wreck. Kill someone, and you get a minimum of 3rd-degree murder. I'd guess that'd be about 30-50 years in prison.

      Basically, drive at your own risk, 'cause the government is done babysitting your cellphone-talking, makeup-applying, shaving, radio-retuning, newspaper-reading, kid-slapping, drowsy, drunk, high, and/or just-plain-stupid ass. You are responsible for your own actions, whether you like it or not.

      Of course, this is America, land of the free, home of the brave, abode of the irresponsible. It'll never happen.
      • Want proof? Look at how many times local law enforcement gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar, changing speed limits, moving stop signs, and in general, making traffic laws become a big fat cash cow instead of a safety precaution.

        Err, not to be rude, but how is this proof of anything? It's just a blanket statement with nothing to back it up. No logic, no links to studies, etc.

      • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:38PM (#8819039) Homepage
        Traffic laws are meant to be broken. Want proof? Look at how many times local law enforcement gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar, changing speed limits, moving stop signs, and in general, making traffic laws become a big fat cash cow instead of a safety precaution.

        Then be a renegade! Buck the system! Fight The Man! Follow every single traffic law. That'll really stick it to em!

        Won't their faces be red when they see an army of cars observing posted speed limits and following traffic laws! I can just see them now, huddled in their secret subterrainean command center, cursing and waving their fists as car after car proceeds down the street in an orderly, safe, courteous manner!

        Take that, federal, state and local government! Muah-ha-hah!

    • Ho hum. What a weeny do gooder you are. I speed when I want, regardless of some stupid law. If it's safe, then I'll do it.

      Take for instance highway driving. On the highway I drive regularly people *always* speed. And it's not just a few, no, the majority of people go 20 km/h over the limit (120 km/h), a smaller group go 130-140 km/h regularly (third lane, or even second lane depending on the day), and very very very few people go the limit, 100 km/h.

      So you have all these weeny do gooders who had the limit
  • by mabu (178417) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:39PM (#8818069)
    I was in Switzerland last year and I noticed that the stoplights there would show the yello signal in both directions. So if you're at a red light, the yellow will go on to let you know the green is getting ready to change in the opposing lane.

    In the states, this doesn't happen. It's almost as if we can't do that to people in the US - they'd run the yellow at the red. More evidence that Europeans are a more civilized in their driving?
    • More evidence that Europeans are a more civilized in their driving?


      Are you insane? You ever been to Rome?

    • by devnullkac (223246) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:14PM (#8818682) Homepage

      One possible reason for the red-yellow-green sequence is that in many European jurisdictions, drivers are required to take their manual transmission completely out of gear, rather than simply keeping the clutch in. The yellow light warns them to get the car in gear so they'll be ready to go when it's green. Not as relevant in these days of cheap automatic transmissions, but it's the sort of thing that's tough to just get rid of.

      • cheap is often not the issue. i was in germany and there a lot of people still have manuals. why? because the engine has to have a certain minimum amount of power to not stall with an automatic. this is around 100hp. the ford mondeo (at least when i saw it) was about 80hp.

    • I live in Switzerland and I can tell you the real reason for this. If you're waiting at a red light you are actually supposed to turn off the motor in order to avoid burning useless fuel (it's your money, of course, but the (clean) air is everybody's, and the noise isn't nice either). When the yellow turns on then you can not start (the red's on, too, remember). But you have time to turn on your motor. Especially when you're not the first in line then the time's really enough to start in time.
  • That's what the cops say. ;-) First you have speeding, then running red lights, then running stop signs, soon you're up to mass-murder.

    This new stop light just gets you through the gateway just a little quicker.

    m
  • by Safety Cap (253500) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:40PM (#8818089) Homepage Journal
    For all you that don't RTFA:
    Many neighbors are so peeved with the popularity of the road that they didn't want a traffic signal at all at Montevino because it would allow traffic to flow better than the stop sign it replaced. At least the stop signs made speeding impossible and persuaded some commuters to steer clear, neighbors said.

    As far as speeding tickets goes, it is a doucmented fact that traffic laws are not for safety but revenue generation. This bad boy will probably pay for itself in no time and continue to reap dividends for years to come.

    Combine the "smart" light with the auto ticket-giving camera (don't need to pay for the copy to write tickets!) and city budget problems will be cured overnight. Oh, and when people get smart and start slowing down, just decrease the yellow-light time and watch your profits rise!

    America: Best profit-making government money can buy.

    • by Dr Rick (588459) * on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:48PM (#8818255)
      "As far as speeding tickets goes, it is a doucmented fact that traffic laws are not for safety but revenue generation"

      And the documentation you mention would be...

    • Many neighbors are so peeved with the popularity of the road that they didn't want a traffic signal at all at Montevino because it would allow traffic to flow better than the stop sign it replaced. At least the stop signs made speeding impossible and persuaded some commuters to steer clear, neighbors said.

      So this new gadget becomes a stop sign for speeders, and actually smooths out traffic flow for the residents.

      Seems like the local community wins with this new stop light/traffic signal.
  • I drive on Herndon Parkway in Herndon, Virginia every day to and from work and there are 3 stoplights over an a stretch of about 3 miles that behave this way. Been in place for the last year I've lived in the area, I dunno how much before that.
  • It seems to me that if they really wanted to stop people from speeding, they should take a picture of the speeder and record the speed, then have somebody at the DMV mail out tickets once a week. People would respect a $50 ticket more then a red light (especially after going a few miles through such lights), and it wouldn't cause traffic congestion.
  • I saw this (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcc (14761)
    This is the worst idea EVER. Yeah, I'm going to feel *real fucking safe* when suddenly the most batshit nuts, speeding drivers on the road are unexpectedly and without warning coming to sudden stops because they've triggered the "punishment light". To say nothing of the collateral damage caused by the fact that everybody on the road winds up stopping.

    Vehicular safety ONLY FUNCTIONS when the behavior of all of the drivers is as PREDICTABLE as possible. That's why we have stoplights in the first place, if yo
    • Re:I saw this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:52PM (#8818351)
      As long as it goes through the yellow cycle as well, how is this much different from a normal red light?

      You're coming up to the intersection, the light changes, either because the cycle changes, or because a speeder has triggered it. br>
      In neither case does the speeder (or anyone else) know where the signal is in its cycle.

      So it changes as he approaches. Big deal.

      without-warning red light
      if you RTFA, it specifically says there is a yellow pahse before the red.
    • Re:I saw this (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Godeke (32895) *
      Having been rear ended for being observant, yes the jerk who isn't paying attention *is*at*fault*. I was rear ended by a pregnant woman who decided that "blowing though the yellow" was more valuable than a bit of caution. Unfortunately, there was a stalled car on the other side of the intersection, which I had to stop for, because traffic flow in the lane next to me wasn't giving me a break.

      Mr. officer of course got an earful about how I "stopped suddenly" and there was no way she could stop that quickly.
  • Excellent plan! (Score:4, Informative)

    by ke4roh (590577) * <jimesNO@SPAMhiwaay.net> on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:41PM (#8818113) Homepage Journal
    This will make for excellent driver behavior modification. In the town where I used to live, people habitually stopped their cars in the intersections for red lights (just past the stop bar). When they put in sensors, people quickly figured out they needed to stop on the sensor - which was where the car was supposed to be in the first place. Likewise, if speeding produces no benefit, people will stop speeding.

    As for running red lights, cameras can mete out punishment for that, too.
  • First, San Francisco is notorious for having a high number of 'red light runners'...folks on bicycles are getting hit, killed, and maimed all too frequently just for this reason. (no to mention other motorists)

    Second, a new way to have fun at other's expense!

    1. Drive speed limit or below, wait until traffic is backed up behind you.
    2. As you approach a green light, speed up unexpectedly, so the lights begins to cycle.
    3. Speed through yellow, leaving all those morons behind you with their middle fi
  • by AcquaCow (56720) * <acquacow AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:43PM (#8818154) Homepage
    Going to reply rather than moderate...

    These lights are in heavy use in Northern Virginia. They are mostly in place around residential neighborhoods to keep speeds and road noise down. They also double as extra safety, as kids are around.

    It's a lot easier to time crossing an intersection if you know that all the cars are going one speed or slower. This is true wether you are walking across it or making a turn in a car at said intersection.

    The biggest concern are Kids. They are careless. They may look left then right, but if they see a car FAR off to the left, they won't pay any attention to it...even if it is going 90mph and will overtake them before they can cross the road.

  • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:45PM (#8818197) Homepage
    Not to defend unsafe driving, but the reason that nearly everyone speeds is that many speed limits are set so such a low common denominator that you'd assume that brain-damaged chimpanzees were used as the baseline cases. Most people will drive a reasonable speed regardless of what's posted. There are always a few idiots that will drive at insane speeds regardless of what's posted.

    The reason that they do this is that they're addicted to traffic ticket revenue, which is essentially a randomly-enforced "tax lottery" - especially in my area where average highway traffic moves at 80 MPH+ (I've been "going with the flow" along with two dozen other drivers at 95+ in the city). I'm just waiting for them to pair this up with red-light cameras and 2-second yellow lights for the ultimate in revenue generation...

    Yes, this sounds cynical (and it is), but if these jackasses were really interested in little things like public safety then they'd probably put some actual effort into designing safe intersections, traffic interchanges, force land developers to plan traffic flow, setting speed limits that are reasonable, etc.
    • Its show LA metro and average speed, Its not uncommon to see 80 to 85(the max it registers) in most areas during non commute hours. I personally go the speed of traffic, if traffic is going 85, i'm going 85. Its puts me and other traffic at risk if I go 65, the limit, when everyone is going much faster.
  • In my city (Score:5, Informative)

    by zakezuke (229119) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:49PM (#8818280)
    I've noted that alot of the lights are actually timed so if you go a given speed, it's all green. But in most cases, if you actually go the speed limit, you are assured to actually catch every light. Specificly there is this 30 zone that goes right into downtown. I can either drive the entire distance at 30mph and stop every 3 or 4 city blocks or I can go 35mph and stop only a handful of times.

    While the timming is off in this case, I find it an excelent system to keep me within the speed zone that they approve of.

  • In poorly designed stoplight situations, there can be an area called "the dilema zone" where drivers get caught in the situation where they cannot stop their car without crossing the stop line. If one is going the full speed within the dliema zone when the light first turns yellow, they are screwed... they will physically have to run the red light because slamming the brake pedal won't be enough.

    Usually, dilema zone situations are created by there being too short of a yellow light sequence to allow the car in the zone to go through, or the speed limit being too high to corrispond to the yellow light time they wanted to use. Fixing one or the other elimiates the zone.

    Therefore, I fear this stop light project is headed for failure. A true speeder is either going to run the yellow or red light. The only people its going punish are the legal speed cars behind the speeders...
  • Better Way (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m1a1 (622864) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:51PM (#8818336)
    Seriously, there is a better way. If you time the lights so that taking off from a step, smoothly accelerating to the speed limit and then maintaing the legal limit to the next light causes you to hit concurrent lights just as they turn green then it becomes useless to speed and all drivers get the best results by going the speed limits.

    I'm not a civil engineer or city planner or anything, but I've seen well planned traffic light systems and I know what they look like. People move through stopping AS LITTLE as possible. It is easier on vehicles, safer for drivers, and much less stressful to drivers if they can just get up to speed and maintain it. This light is all for show as it will probably be more detrimental than helpful. It is just a way for local government to wave its dick without accomplishing... well, dick.
  • by scovetta (632629) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:52PM (#8818354) Homepage
    | | |
    | | me, 85 mph |
    | V |
    --------- -------------
    you, 85 mph O
    -----> O light, changes quickly
    O from red to green to red...
    --------- -------------
    | |
    | |
    | |
    here is some text to prevent the postercommenter filter from not letting me post my message. this is really dumb, i think i should be able to post it, it's not like it's totally off topic, and who doesn't like some good ascii art once in a while, not that i'm saying that mine is good, but that it's technically art, and it's, well, ascii.
  • by mudder (32780) on Friday April 09, 2004 @02:58PM (#8818453)
    I drive a fairly fast car, and the truth is, driving it at high speed isn't that much fun. Going 100 on the freeway really doesn't feel that much different from going 65 (apart from being really nervous about the impending ticket). However, acceleration is a totally different story. I really enjoy being at the front of the line at a stop light. When the light goes green, I accelerate as quickly as possible until I hit 5 - 10 mph over the limit. I then let off the gas and back down to whatever the speed limit is. I've been known to stop for yellow lights when I could legally continue, just to get that feeling from stomping on the accelerator.

    So, a light like this is a dream come true for me. If I approach the light just a bit over the speed limit, I'm gauranteed to get an opportunity to race away when the light goes green. Yay!

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:24PM (#8818857) Homepage Journal
    So a speeder is supposed to be challenged by a red light. Open question to the designers of this system: "What is the speed of light in the little universe you are living in?"

    You want to stop people from running red lights (and with these lights by extension speeding)?

    Put retractable "Severe tire damage" spikes on the entrances to the intersection. Raise them on the directions for which the light is red. Couple the system to a SECURE RF system for emergency vehicles to lower them. Thus the only way a scofflaw can enter the intersection in these cases would be to veer to the other side of the road where the spikes are not facing the correct direction.

    Extra points for putting spikes in the media to prevent that.

    Teach people that YELLOW means "Stop if at all possible DAMNIT!" and RED means "STOP. No option. STOP. NOW!"

    The great thing about this is that you need issue no fine to punish the bad drivers - the cost of replacing their tires will do that nicely.

    Of course, I want to mount a land-mine dropper to drop mines with a two second delay behind me - that should teach people what "safe following distance" is (Fire the mine out at rest relative to the road surface, "One Mississippi, Two Mississipp-BANG!").

    Seriously - stop people from needlessly tailgating, running yellow and red lights, and I think you could actually RAISE the speed limits in many areas without a reduction in safety.
  • by Ra5pu7in (603513) <ra5pu7in&gmail,com> on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:34PM (#8818992) Journal
    If a driver is already "in a hurry" and speeding faster than much of the traffic, what on earth would make them say "ooh, the light turned yellow so I'd better stop at this intersection". Most speeders I know would just accelerate more to "beat the red light".

    Safety-wise -- the only way this would be safe is if no other light change until the speeder either stops fully or exits the intersection (having run the light). If drivers in the other direction are given an early green, that would be a recipe for disaster.
  • Swell (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:38PM (#8819043) Homepage Journal
    Most states and counties these days have to run any tax hikes past the voters. The voters almost always vote no. With incomes from sales and income taxes dwindling and towns more cash stapped than ever, we could always be sure that if we needed a little something extra to get us by, we could increase enforcement of the speed limits for a few days. Not for long mind you -- motorists will eventually slow down if you do it too much, just enough to bring in an extra couple-hundred grand here or there.

    Now technology proposes to eliminate this source of revenue too? What the hell is wrong with these people, are they a bunch of communists?!

  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:40PM (#8819072) Homepage
    you get two speeders approaching an intersection at the same time?

    Do you get a blue light of death!?
  • hrmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomel (244635) <turd@Nospam.inorbit.com> on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:42PM (#8819097) Homepage Journal
    most speeders I see tend to run the yellow light by flooring it as soon as it turns yellow. I would think this would increase speed!
  • ever wondered ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chip7 (587423) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:50PM (#8819185)
    Speeding is not the trouble, it's never been. Humans in control of the cars are the problems, and a automatic red light certainly won't fix anything. How would you react to it?

    1- "hmm ... maybe i'm being unsafe to my fellow citizen and this radared red light is only warning me that i am a potential danger! I should slow down so as to no longer endanger the lives of my fellow, taxpaying citizen! i'll just be late to my meeting and the boss will have to wait"

    2- "GODAM@#$*(@# STOOPID @#$*()@*@# LIGHT GONNA GET ME LATE TO THE MEETING !!!!! COMON YOU STOO@()#*$(*@ B*TCH GO GREEN ALLREADY COMON!!!!!!"

    Like it not not, rightfull or not, this isn't gonna help anything.

  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Friday April 09, 2004 @03:52PM (#8819204) Homepage
    because now they can write TWO tickets, one for speeding, and another one for running the red light.

    The city will love this because they collect more money from fines.

    The laywers will love this because they will have more clients who will pay more to try and get out of two moving violations instead of just one.

    Great idea!

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