A Private First Class assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, died 23 April 2021 from injuries sustained in a PMV-4 mishap three weeks earlier in Wayne County, Illinois, at 2240 local. The Soldier was operating her vehicle on 2 April when she ran a red light and was struck by another vehicle. She was transported to a local hospital for medical treatment. Due to complications and her medical prognosis, the Soldier was removed from life support and pronounced dead shortly afterward. The Soldier was reportedly wearing a seat belt during the mishap, which is under investigation. An occupant in the other vehicle died and two others were injured.
Since 2016, the Army has lost an average of 33 Soldiers a year to PMV-4 mishaps. This mishap was the 25th PMV-4 fatality of FY21.
1. Recognize the “Dilemma Zone”
You’re approaching an intersection, and the light changes from green to yellow. You’re already too close to stop comfortably, but can you make it across the intersection before the light turns red? We’ve all been there, and traffic engineers actually have a name for this phenomenon; it’s called the dilemma zone. It’s a theoretical area about 2.5 to 5.5 seconds away from the stop line, where drivers have a 10 to 90 percent probability of stopping.
When a yellow light is too short, drivers can neither stop safely nor cross the intersection completely before the light turns red. By implementing a longer yellow signal, the dilemma zone can actually be eliminated. But we’re only human, and that moment of indecision can’t be completely eliminated. Instead, the dilemma zone can become an “option zone,” where the yellow light is long enough that within that time and distance, either choice is safe and legal.
2. Know Yellow Light Laws
Approaching that yellow light can be even more nerve-racking if you’re not completely sure what it means. Do you have to stop if it’s safe to do so? What if the light turns red while you’re in the intersection? The answers to these questions vary from state to state.
There are three basic types of laws governing what drivers have to do at a yellow light:
In Louisiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee and West Virginia, drivers may not be in the intersection at all while the signal is red. This means that it’s only legal to enter the intersection on yellow if it can be entirely cleared before the light changes to red.
In Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin, drivers may only enter the intersection on yellow unless it is impossible or unsafe to stop.
In the remaining 37 states and Washington, DC, drivers may enter the intersection on a yellow light. Drivers may also legally be in the intersection while the red signal is displayed, as long as they entered while the light was still yellow.
3. Control Your Speed
Speed has a major impact on how efficiently and safely you can travel through stoplights.
Traffic engineers set the length of yellow and all-red signals based on how fast vehicles on the road are expected to travel, and the safe stopping distance they’ll need at that speed. Often, the posted speed limit is used as the assumed approach speed. If you’re driving faster than that speed limit, you’ll need a longer stopping distance, and the yellow light may not be long enough for you to come to a safe stop before the light turns red.
Driving the speed limit can even help you get to your destination faster and more efficiently. Many cities time green lights for vehicles going at or a little below the posted speed limit. As you may have noticed on streets you drive often, if you maintain just the right speed, you can catch a bunch of green lights in a row.
4. Never Drive Drowsy or Distracted
We’ve posted in the past about the danger of driving while using your cellphone, about other driving distractions like tending to child passengers and getting lost in your own thoughts, and about drowsiness, so we’ll keep this reminder brief. It only takes a few seconds for the light to change from green, to yellow, to red, and when we’re not paying full attention, it can be easy for a red light to escape our notice completely. Don’t risk it. Only drive when you’re alert and rested. If you absolutely must use your phone, find a safe place to stop.
Remember, intersections are the number one place for crashes to occur, so always be aware of other drivers and road users, even if it’s legally your turn to cross!