People Who Slow Down at Green Lights: Why?
Before we get too far into this post, I want to make a disclosure: my friends say I am a "Driving Snob". AKA Back-Seat Driver. Mother-in-Law Passenger. There are lots of names for it, and that is what I am.
Now, there may be a reason I am a back-seat driving, mother-in-law-passengering, driving snob: I drive differently than you do (notice I didn't say "better", I was careful to say "differently").
Now that you know that I don't drive the same as some others, you'll understand why I have questions for those who display certain methods of driving that differ from mine.
Today's topic: people who slow down at green lights.
Allow me to set up the scenario: you are driving along on Camellia Boulevard at the posted speed limit (I didn't say it was a realistic scenario because let's face it: who drives the posted limit on Camellia??) of 35 miles per hour. Ahead of you are 3 cars as you approach the Academy Road intersection. The light is green, and the car in front of you begins to slow down as you reach the intersection. By the time you get to the green light, you are going less than 30 miles per hour, for some unknown reason.
After you get through the intersection, you realize that the vehicle in front of you begins to accelerate, and soon you are speeding along again at 35 miles per hour. Until the next green light, of course.
It's obvious: the driver in front of you intentionally slowed down to enter an intersection
Have you ever wondered why some people do that? Why would someone slow down for a green light?
I posted that question on Facebook and I was actually surprised at some of the answers.
The number one reason that was given was this: in case someone runs the red light.
I've never been hit driving through an intersection by someone running a red light, but there have been some close calls. Those close calls came immediately after the light turned green for me, red for the cross traffic. I've never encountered someone running a stale red light.
With that being said, it appears that it has happened to several people commenting on my post.
Darlene slows because she's been broadsided at a green light and suffered for months due to her injuries.
Christine was in a crash in 1996 and she still feels herself "tense up" to this day at that intersection.
Andrea is also suffering from PTSD due to a crash, and I can totally understand that; it's like putting your hand on a hot stove - you are very careful around stoves from that point on.
When you do the math, less than 4% of the people responding to my post said that they slow down because of their prior experiences with a crash.
So what do the others say? They say that they slow down as a safety precaution.
Slowing down just in case someone runs a red light.
One driver said that they slow down as a "defensive driving" measure, saying that one can never be too careful:
Others express concerns that the light would be turning yellow as they approached and didn't want to slam on their brakes to stop in time.
Stagnant green light - a term we learned in Driver's Education.
I understand Driver's Education teaching about Stagnant Green Lights (not-knowing-how-long-the-light-has-been-green-and-it-might-change-at-any-second-kind of thing), but if you are frequently slamming on your brakes for yellow lights, you are either driving too slow or too fast. Remember, it's legal to enter an intersection on a yellow light, and is sometimes safer than trying to stop (ask me about it: I got a ticket for doing that very thing. It was dismissed).
I reached out to a friend of mine who is in law enforcement (traffic enforcement, to be exact) and he brought something that hadn't entered my mind: emergency vehicles.
Emergency vehicles CAN proceed through a red light after making their presence known. How do they do that? Flashing lights and sirens. That's why it's important to never have two headphones or earbuds in your ears and to never have the music so loud that you can't hear sirens.
My law enforcement friend said that the thought of people slowing down to go through a green light doesn't bother him unless they slow to an unreasonable speed. When I asked "what's an unreasonable speed", he wouldn't be specific, and for good reason: too many variables. Location, traffic load, size of the vehicle - these aspects, and more, would need to be taken into consideration.
Regardless of their reason, "if someone in front of you slows down to enter an intersection," he said, "you need to adjust your speed accordingly." You know, for safety's sake.
When I turned to the internet to research why people slow down at green lights, I found a post on Reddit from 2011 about this very subject.
Some of the answers were just as above: afraid of someone running the red light, or afraid that the light was going to turn yellow.
One Redditor had an opinion that most closely fit my reaction to the "reasons" given for slowing at a green light.
Now I would not have used the insults, of course, but the rest of the post from u/markblevins is spot-on, in my opinion.
If it is green when you get to (the point where it's too late to stop), carry on, even if it turns yellow. You're supposed to be able to judge how far you need to stop. If you can't, make a point of learning. It's an important part of being a competent driver. u/markblevins, Reddit
What he means is this: it is legal to enter an intersection when the light is yellow. It is legal for you to be in an intersection when the light turns red. Am I making this up? No, I am not.
According to the Louisiana State Legislature, RS 32:232 states, and I quote:
(a) Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal alone is thereby warned that the related green signal is being terminated or that a red signal will be exhibited immediately thereafter and such vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection when the red signal is exhibited. Louisiana State Legislature
After all of this research (which was totally unscientific), I am led to believe that there is a certain percentage of the driving public who are just not good at timing things out. They aren't great at knowing how long it will take their vehicle to travel a set distance at whatever speed they are traveling. In relation to this post: they aren't great at knowing if they can make it through an intersection before the light turns red, so they put those behind them at risk by slamming on their brakes.
Have I almost slammed into someone who jammed on their brakes at a yellow light? No, because I follow at a safe distance. Have I missed perfectly legal chances of advancing through an intersection because the driver in front of me isn't great at judging distance/time? Frequently.
Realizing how many people there are in this world who might not be great at judging distance/time, we may now know why there are so many who have issues entering a traffic circle.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
Now, other than people slowing at green lights, let's look at some things that Lafayette drivers do that drive other drivers crazy.
Lafayette Traffic Situations That Make Drivers Faché Faché (Mad Mad!)
5 Worst Intersections in Lafayette According to You
10 Must-Drive Roads in Acadiana