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Archive for Monday, July 1, 2013

City to install blue traffic lights for catching drivers running red lights

July 1, 2013

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Red means stop, green means go, blue means — wait, what?

Drivers on 23rd St. after Wednesday morning might be surprised to see blue traffic lights when they cross Louisiana and Iowa streets. The blue lights don't signal some new traffic rule; they're meant to help enforce an old standard: stopping at the red light.

City workers and researchers from the Kansas University School of Engineering are partnering to install eight blue lights Wednesday at the intersections of 23rd and Louisiana and 23rd and Iowa streets as part of an experimental traffic safety effort.

Drivers don't need to do anything different when they see the blue lights perched at the four points of each intersection, said Steven Schrock, one of the leaders of the research group and an assistant professor at KU's Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

The blue light simply turns on when the existing traffic light turns red, allowing police to see from any direction whether a driver just made it through on yellow or blew the red light long after it turned.

Ordinarily, a police officer can only be sure of a red light violation if positioned directly behind the driver. The researchers see the blue lights as an alternative to automated red-light cameras, which are used to catch offending motorists in other states but are not allowed in Kansas.

Transportation officials say the human cost of ignoring red lights is significant. At least 676 people across the nation died in vehicle accidents in 2009, the most recent year for which national figures are available, because a driver ran a red light, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The project in Lawrence, and a twin version in Overland Park at the intersections of College Boulevard and South Quivira Rd, and W. 75th Street and Metcalf Ave., is being paid for with a $120,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Mid-America Transportation Center, a consortium of university research centers from across the Midwest.

The study group, also led by Eric Fitzsimmons, a researcher at the KU Transportation Research Institute, watched video of about a dozen intersections in Lawrence and consulted with city officials and police before settling on the intersections at Louisiana and Iowa Street. Those two were chosen because they handle a high volume of traffic and showed a persistent pattern of drivers running red lights.

The Lawrence Police Department did not seek out this this project in order to write more tickets, according to Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman. But officers will find it helpful in making sure the tickets they do write pass muster in court, and the blue lights will allow them to watch for red-light runners more safely, without having to position themselves in the middle of traffic.

Over the next six months, the KU researchers will continue studying all of those intersections — with and without blue lights — and report to city and state officials any differences they find.

Similar blue lights have been tried in Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Minnesota, but there hasn't been enough data collected to say for sure how well they work, Schrock said. For their part, city officials in Naples, Fla., where the blue lights were installed earlier this year, say it isn't clear what effect they have had on driver behavior.

The researchers hope the blue lights will affect driver behavior across a wider area than the two intersections, but say they won't know until they see how people respond. People might tend to run red lights at a certain intersections because the timing of the signals makes the wait seem longer than it is, Schrock said, or because it is a difficult place for police to catch them.

"If people seem to get the perception that 'I could cheat here,' or 'I can see that people are cheating here and not getting caught,' then the power of the red light to stop people is less," Schrock said. "But, if word gets out about the blue lights, maybe they'll say 'Not at this intersection.'"

Comments

patkindle 9 months, 2 weeks ago

anyone stupid enough to run a red light would expect his rights to be protected against him getting a ticket, after all he is more important than the rest of us

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oneeye_wilbur 9 months, 2 weeks ago

As bad as the streets are, traffic moves so slowly anyway.

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Billy Smith 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So instead of being parked in a church parking lot taking radar or driving around town typing on their computers, you mean that cops will be staking out these blue lights? Haha man these police earn their money. Glorified meter maids...

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Liberty275 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Just make sure you don't run lights at those intersections and they will conclude the lights aren't needed and not waste more money on them. Since they will have cops there watching, you will be less likely to get busted elsewhere for your impatience.

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kansasdaughter 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I may be missing something here, but doesn't the green light indicate that the cross traffic has a red light?

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blindrabbit 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Hey, those blue lights are not very big, but they are sure bright. Went through the 23rd. and Iowa intersection last night (no, I did not run the "blue" light) but looked back from the west on 23rd. and could see them clear from Kasold!

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Joe Hyde 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I wish great success for our officers when using this blue light enforcement system. And I'm very pleased that the system is also being installed at some Overland Park intersections. That will directly benefit the safety of Lawrence streets.

From my years living in Lawrence I can say that Johnson County drivers, as a group, are the most frequent violators of our traffic laws. Not just stop lights but everything. I appreciate that most are university students; thus simply from being young they're automatically prone to impulsive behavior and we should expect a certain amount of that as a normal part of growing up.

What's not normal is pulling into an intersection on a green light and getting t-boned by a red light runner (no matter where the violator driver hails from). Any traffic control system, but especially a free one, that reduces intersection collisions is a fine improvement.

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Smarmy_Schoolmarm 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Since when do I have to respond to a Google questionnaire to be able to read more than the first couple of paragraphs of a story??? Is this a ghost in my machine or is it ljworld.com's problem?

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Liberty275 9 months, 2 weeks ago

After careful deliberation, I think this might be a good idea. if you know the sequence of lights, you could use the blue light to get a holeshot in a race down 23rd or Mass. This is assuming there is a lag between the opposing turn lane blue light going off and your green light coming on. If you launch when the blue goes off. you'll get that half-second or whatever jump on the other racer... errr, driver.

I approve. And always remember, real racing tires don't squeal.

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George_Braziller 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe people wouldn't try to run the lights at 23rd and Louisiana if the left turn signals onto Louisiana stayed green for more than about 20 seconds. I've had to sit at that intersection through three cycles of lights because it isn't long enough for all of the traffic to turn. Sometimes only three or four vehicles are able to make it through before it turns red.

I know I've pushed it before because after five minutes of waiting I didn't want to have to sit there for another cycle of the lights.

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Curtis Lange 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Noticed tonight that Overland Park does this already as well...at least at the College and Quivira intersection.

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oneeye_wilbur 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Rear end accidents. This a KU idea, then address the traffic on campus and Round it. A city commission still experimenting. That's all they can do!

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Pywacket 9 months, 2 weeks ago

What reremodel said! I see people running red lights all the time in this town--and often a cop will be sitting there ignoring them. It's bad out at the intersection of 23rd (K-10) and Haskell. People going east or west will speed up on yellow and often run the light a couple of seconds after it has turned red and it's already green for the N-S traffic. Have never once seen one of these d-bags get stopped.

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Richard Ballard 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm all for it! I see people running red lights and 'pink' lights almost every time I drive across town. I almost got hit by one yesterday evening at 19th. & Mass.

The only problem I see is, if the cops will bother to enforce the law when they see it being broken?? I see people running red lights, with a cop right behind them. They keep going, and the cop sometimes stops at the light! And the cop sometimes runs it too! But I have never seen a cop stop a red light runner in recent times for doing it.

Now off on another tangent! Why don't they enforce the double yellow line on Mass street??

I can't make it from 11th. & Mass to 6th. & Mass at 6:00 PM without some idjit pulling a U-turn in the middle of Mass to park crooked on the other side of the street.

Or a covey of texting jay-walkers running out in front of me without looking, two parking stalls away from an intersection, or mid-block cross-walk.

Lets enforce the traffic laws on Mass street, or repeal them all and make it a pedestrian mall with no cars at all!!

rcmodel

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In_God_we_trust 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I wouldn't be surprised to see an increase in traffic accidents at these intersections, due to drivers watching for blue lights, instead of on coming traffic at intersections. It's a terrible driver distraction and these devices and red light cameras should be removed. They should concentrate on safety for drivers instead of writing more tickets.

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Number_1_Grandma 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Seeing how some lights last just 2 cars before turning red, I see a cash cow for the city! Make all traffic lights stay on for a definitive length of time; I could understand spending the money for this. But just making everyone criminals by settings the traffic lights just to gain more money is BS.

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Pheps 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Are there and smart bombs involved with violators?

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arch007bak 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Saw a story on KSHB 41 about this on the 5:00 news. They were being installed in OP today. They're barely visible in daylight, but the traffic engineer there said they think officers will be able to handle that after training. They also said each light costs either $150 or $250 (don't recall now which it was). They didn't say if that includes installation costs. Either way, that means $2400 or $4000 for the lights. Assuming it doesn't include installation, I'm guessing that would leave about $100k for the 6-month study. Seems like a lot...

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Suzanne Jacobsen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Hey, why doesn't the city spend that money elsewhere, by putting in more left turn lights. Start with 6th and Michigan, proceed from there.

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geoismeo 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Bicycle riders won't care if the light is orange with baloons attached, the will ignore them anyway.

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daylight 9 months, 2 weeks ago

"Ordinarily, a police officer can only be sure of a red light violation if positioned directly behind the driver. " So, the officer won't actually SEE with their OWN eyes this alleged violation. Hmm. Last I knew, that was called HEAR SAY, not admissable evidence. But that's only my opinion, as a private citizen.

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pizzapete 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I actually don't think we have a big problem with people running red lights in Lawrence. We do have a problem with people not using their turn signals, however. And don't get me started talking about all the distracted drivers I see looking down at their phone as they go speeding by.

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jman785 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Anything to improve the situation at 23rd and Iowa is appreciated. That intersection is an absolute joke in regards to red light runners. I would actually like to see a camera system in place there as well. I cannot say that I have seen the problem at the 23rd and Louisiana intersection. May very well be the case though. As consumer1 said, bicycles would be something to look at as well on some of the other intersections. These two in particular I do not feel are much of an issue in that regard however.

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consumer1 9 months, 2 weeks ago

If I understand this correctly, a police officer would have to be in the vicintiy during the infraction(s), correct? How long does the blue light stay on after the infraction? what is the margin of error, that is, ticketing the wrong car/truck/or bicycle/Motor cycle? Will it pick up when a bicycle runs the red light??? If not, why not?

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