I’ve heard people joke that a green light means go, a yellow light means go faster and a red light means stop. But I don’t think it’s a joke any longer: More people seem to be trying to beat red lights and they’re stepping on the gas when the light turns yellow.

Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Rich Celli says he hasn’t seen that as a general trend, although he does at times have officers stake out specific intersections where it’s common for “many people to try to beat the light” and often run the red.

Roileen Miller of Miller Driving School in Cotati does see more drivers pushing the yellow light as they try to beat the red. “A lot more” than when she started teaching new drivers in 1979.

“People have no patience any more,” she says.

Some drivers try to beat the light because they’re in a rush to get somewhere, and they’re trying to make up the time by driving faster, she says.

Some intersections are notorious for drivers trying to beat the red, she says, particularly Guerneville Road in front of Coddingtown Mall.

She said she was out with a student and four cars turned on a red arrow – “the light’s not even yellow. They’re running the red.”

Miller said you can tell if a light is going to change on you as you approach it so that you can be prepared to stop. One clue is if there’s a big gap in traffic in front of you and there are cars stopped at the cross street. Traffic sensors imbedded in some roads will detect the gap and will change the light, she said.

She said speed limits are used in determining how long a yellow light lasts to give motorists enough warning to prepare to stop: Four seconds for 40 mph, three seconds for 30 mph and two seconds for 25 mph.

I see two reasons for going through a yellow light: You’re already in the intersection when the light turns yellow or you’re too close to the intersection to stop safely, taking into consideration that if you come to a sudden stop, do you risk the driver behind you hitting you.

In addition to Guerneville Road at Coddingtown, here are a few more intersections where I often see cars push the yellow to the point of running the red: Baker Avenue at Santa Rosa Avenue, where northbound traffic are trying to beat the light to get onto Highway 101; Mission Boulevard at Highway 12 in Santa Rosa, pretty much all directions; and McDowell Boulevard at East Washington Street in Petaluma, again pretty much all directions.

Know of others? Let us know with a comment below.


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