The recently-revived Monty Python troupe famously sang, many
years ago now, of liking traffic lights - ''but only when
they're green'' and ''not when they are red'' - but,
curiously, made no mention of the orange/yellow/amber (you
Maybe they just couldn't be bothered.
It was, after all, just a catchy piece of nonsense. But it
might have been filed in the ''too confusing'' bin, which is
kind of what is happening as the debate continues over the
DDD (Dunedin's dodgy drivers) issue.
Yesterday, The Wash highlighted the associated problem of
running red lights and its close companion, the amber-gambler
people who speed up to zip through intersections as the
This prompted a call from Ann, a reader, who said she always
understood you could ''keep going'' on an amber light but
''be prepared to stop'' and asked if I could clarify the
Happy to do so Ann. The Road Code is pretty clear: ''A yellow
signal means stop, unless you are so close to the
intersection that you can't stop safely. A yellow signal
indicates that the lights will soon turn red.''
I guess the grey area will always be the varying
interpretations of being able to ''stop safely''.
As I confessed yesterday, I've been known to keep going when,
perhaps, I should have stopped.
The issue was raised on TV One's Close Up programme in 2012
when an Auckland traffic engineer was fined for running a
She challenged her ticket in court, believing she had
followed the rules and done nothing wrong, but lost the case.
The AA's general manager of motoring affairs, Mike Noon, was
quoted then as saying there was a ''national epidemic'' of
''For a lot of drivers it seems that a yellow light actually
means to stamp on the accelerator,'' he said.
Incidentally, the engineer said the rules were changed after
she was fined (in 2011) and motorists caught running yellow
lights could now be given a formal warning before being
The issue has also been well-debated on the ODT's website
with a correspondent known as ''Dunedin Dave'' making an
interesting point about the timing of the colour changes at
signals: ''One second it's green, then amber and within a
very short time red.There should be a solid amber followed by
a flashing one letting drivers know within 5 seconds the
lights will turn red. This would take away the total
guesswork you have when driving towards a green light, not
knowing when it will go amber then almost immediately red.''
This led me to conduct a small experiment at lunchtime
Standing at the corner of Cumberland and St Andrew Sts, I
counted only three or four drivers in half a dozen signal
phases who sneaked through on the amber light.
I also estimated the change from amber to red was about two
seconds. Is that long enough to make a stop or go decision
comfortably? You tell me.
As for red light runners, Ian Lewis, of Port Chalmers, tells
me it's also an issue in the early morning in Dunedin.
He reckons he's nearly been ''cleaned up'' four or five times
about 5am by truck and trailer units at the corner of Hanover
and Castle Sts.
Another Wash reader has raised a related matter, about
changes to the sequencing of signals at the Barnes
Dr/Caversham motorway intersection.
She says when driving down from Lookout Point and wanting to
turn right into the old South Rd, there is a red arrow in
Quite often this red light prevents her from turning even
though there is no oncoming traffic, which causes a needless,
and frustrating, delay.
What's the point of this arrow, she asks?
Roy Johnston, the NZ Transport Agency's senior safety
engineer, replies: ''The Transport Agency removed filter
turns at Barnes Dr intersection. Further alterations to the
phasing are being considered to reduce the delays for
right-turning traffic during quieter times outside peak