Just gimme a second - Macleans.ca

Just gimme a second

Winnipeg traffic crusaders recently launched the Just One Second campaign



Extending the amber traffic light by a second is all that is needed to cut intersection accidents and red-light violations, according to a pair of self-appointed Winnipeg traffic crusaders who recently launched the Just One Second campaign. Since 44-year-old Larry Stefanuik took early retirement from his job as a traffic cop, he and businessman Todd Dube have been on a mission to make local intersections safer places where people get fewer tickets.

Their “one second” logic was borrowed from the U.S., where the state of Georgia enacted a law this year that added extra time to yellow lights following 2006 reports that showed that accidents at photo-controlled stops were actually on the rise. The campaign was so successful that 12 cities in Georgia dismantled some or all of their photo-enforcement cameras. And the issue became the subject of a U.S. congressional hearing in June, during which a Georgia study documenting increases in rear-end collisions after the introduction of red-light cameras was cited.

Though the Winnipeg Sun reported that city council has discussed a possible pilot project for a longer amber, Stefanuik says the city has “completely ignored” them. Meanwhile, a city spokeswoman told the Winnipeg Free Press that the timing of yellow lights is “adequate for the speeds and intersection geometries in the city.” Still, the duo plans to spread their message next month on billboards, in TV commercials and in newspapers. As Dube, 46, says, “Yellow lights aren’t there for the purpose of testing your brakes; they are there to orchestrate your safe clearance through the intersection, but this city is putting them to work like slot machines.” Stefanuik, sounding like the modern-day Robin Hood of traffic violations, adds: “[Cameras at intersections] are just a scheme by rich camera companies who are taking the grocery money right out of people’s pockets.”


Just gimme a second

  1. Larry Stefanuik and Todd Dube are correct. Simply adding 1.0 seconds to the amber intervals at ALL the traffic lights in Winnipeg, those with and without cameras, will cut the red light violations and intersection accidents by greater percentages than camera programs can achieve.

    The city claims: ….the timing of yellow lights is “adequate for the speeds and intersection geometries in the city.” … but if the cameras produce any significant number of violations, then that is absolute proof the amber timing is NOT adequate. IF the amber intervals were in fact adequate, the violation rate would be tiny and cameras would not be profitable.

    Ticket cameras are a cynical means to make money from incompetent and/or unethical traffic management policies. Correct engineering is the answer to almost all traffic management issues. Cameras are only profitable when the engineering is deliberately done improperly to maximize revenue at the cost of reducing safety.

    Regards, James C. Walker, Member-National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI USA

  2. Mr. Walker is right. Adding a second or so to the yellow light timing has been proven to dramatically reduce the red-light violation rate. The timing of the yellow should be based on the actual approach speeds. To do otherwise is unconscionable, especially when it is done to make money.

    Jim Thomas
    Corte Madera, California

  3. Here in Australia, the amber light is definately a lot longer than back home in Alberta. I find that it completely takes the stress out of the 'Do I go? Do I stop?' dilema. I actually feel like a more confident and safer driver because I know that I have time to make the right choice.

  4. Lengthening yellow light times will definitely reduce red-light violations, but to achieve an even lower rate of violations, several things have to be done. First, the speed limits should be set properly (at or near the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic) and then amber light times should be calculated based upon the actual approach speed (which will be close to the speed limit if it is set properly).

    In addition, lights should be synchronized so that drivers will be able to make multiple lights in a row. This helps minimize the frustration that sometimes results in red-light running. When a motorist misses light after light due to non-synchronization, they are more likely to run a light to avoid sitting at yet another red-light. If all of these measured were taken, neither red-light cameras nor speed cameras would even come close to being profitable.

    Unfortunately, in most places, they would rather put up the cameras and make money than fix the problem. Cameras generate revenue…proper engineering does not. So, safety is compromised and motorists are fleeced.