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Letter to the editor

Avoiding citations

By now, the red-light traffic cameras have been active in Farragut for at least four months, and lots of violation tickets have been issued. Were you among those cited? Were you surprised to get a ticket, because you consider yourself a safe driver?

Briefly, here are seven guidelines for minimizing the chances of receiving a $50 camera citation:

• Know where all the cameras are located.

• Approach cameras at speeds below the speed limit.

• Avoid distractions.

• Be aware of the surrounding traffic.

• Continuously monitor the traffic light, at least in your peripheral vision.

• When the light turns yellow, determine whether you are close enough to proceed through on yellow, or you can safely stop before the white line.

• For a legal right turn on red, make a dead stop BEFORE the white line prior to proceeding.

If you are a safe driver, you will be taking care of issues one through five. What can trap even safe drivers is number six. For example, at the 45 mph posted speed limit you have five seconds of yellow. You must be within 330 feet of the intersection to beat the red light. If the distance is greater than 330 feet, you must stop.

How accurately can you estimate a distance of 330 feet? Does it help if I tell you that distance is equivalent to 21 Honda Accord car lengths? Probably not! At the critical distance, making the “continue” vs. “stop” decision requires more accurate estimation skills than most drivers possess. I missed my estimate by 0.26 seconds and 10 feet on Lovell Road at I-40 on March 26, 2008. That is what stimulated me to spend several months researching all available studies on red-light cameras.

At the critical distance of 330 feet, you don’t have much time to make the decision. It will take most people 0.5 to 1.0 second to make the “continue” vs. “stop” decision. If you decide to stop, it will take about one second to move your foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal. Now you have used up two of the five seconds and you are only 198 feet from the stop line. Stopping within three seconds over 198 feet will require assertive braking. There is little room for error.

So, how does the safe driver avoid being caught by human error in the “continue” vs. “stop” decision? If you are paying attention to all seven guidelines, No. 2 is the one that will give you the best opportunity to avoid the trap, providing you cautiously err in favor of stopping instead of continuing. Once you hone your estimating skills, distraction becomes your greatest enemy.

I wish you good luck with the cameras!

Dale Gedcke

B.Eng., M.Sc., Ph.D.

Oak Ridge

No new FUD rates

What is it with East Tennessee utilities?

We are in the midst of a depression, but FUD desires to raise rates.

Homes that they serve are falling into foreclosure, mortgage rates are climbing, taxes are NOT coming down. Neither are food prices.

I understand utility workers are not being laid off, but other workers are faced with job loss.

FUD’s timing is most unfortunate and should be rescinded.

Harry Hogan


Red-light camera reasoning

1. Red light cameras do not improve safety.

Despite the claims of companies that sell ticket cameras, there is no independent verification that photo enforcement devices improve safety, reduce overall accidents, or improve traffic flow. Believing the claims of companies that sell photo enforcement equipment or towns that use this equipment is like believing any commercial produced by a company that is trying to sell you something.

2. These devices discourage the synchronization of traffic lights.

Once red-light cameras start making money for local governments, they are unlikely to jeopardize this income source. Engineering improvements that lessen the income brought in by the cameras include traffic-light synchronization, the elimination of unneeded lights and partial deactivation of other traffic lights during periods of low traffic. When properly done, traffic-light synchronization decreases congestion, pollution and fuel consumption.

3. There are better alternatives to cameras.

If intersection controls are properly engineered, installed, and operated, there will be very few red-light violations. From the motorists’ perspective, government funds should be used on improving intersections, not on ticket cameras. Even in instances where cameras were shown to decrease certain types of accidents, they increased other accidents. Simple intersection and signal improvements can have lasting positive effects, without negative consequences. Farragut can choose to make intersections safer with sound traffic engineering or make money with ticket cameras.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Martin Mansfield

Via e-mail


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