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Green, Yellow, Red: It’s Actually More Complicated Than That

Traffic signals are like advanced stop signs to many of us. They’re staples of the road, signs that we obey to keep our commute running smoothly and safely. However, they are also machines, and the timing of traffic signals requires a lot more thought than we commuters generally realize.

Traffic engineers constantly evaluate data to determine traffic signal timing, which includes the amount of time a traffic light is green, the length of a pedestrian WALK signal, and many other factors that regulate an intersection’s right-of-way. Some intersections are fixed on timers, but more and more are queued to change by detecting waiting vehicles using some sort of mechanism, such as induction loops, video, and digital radar. These “smart” intersections are called actuated signals. To save money, semi-actuated signals exist, which only detect vehicles on the minor streets—this gives the major roadway more time with the right-of-way.

Beyond the timing, traffic engineers determine the length of many things: maximum and minimum green and yellow light intervals, the Walk and Flashing Don’t Walk signs, and even the cycle length of green lights between major intersections on the same street. These variables can change depending on time of day and even time of year.

If traffic signal timing isn’t accurate, there are many potential accidents that can occur. For example, the WALK signal needs to be appropriately timed for the width of the intersection, or else the pedestrian could still be in traffic’s way when the light turns green. Another example is that a long wait for cars leads to a higher likelihood of cars running the light which is a clear cause of accidents.

There is a high chance your car accident involved an intersection in some way, shape, or form, so contact an Everett personal injury lawyer who understands traffic patterns, such as the attorneys at Duce Bastian Peterson today.

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