To go, or not to go? Isn’t that the split-second decision at almost every yellow traffic light? Not many people like being forced to make decisions, especially quick ones, but it happens to people every day! You approach an intersection and the traffic signal turns yellow. You really only have tow choices: stop or coast through (speed through, for some of us). Seems pretty basic, right? There is something peculiar about yellow lights, however. Intuitively, the more driving experience one has, the easier the decision should be to make. It’s actually quite the opposite.
It seems like no matter how long you’ve been driving, a yellow light still has the potential to make you slam on your brakes of gun it through the intersection in frustration (or victory, depending on the person). There are several factors that need to be adequately judged when confronted with the yellow signal. Beginner drivers only know two things to think about: speed and distance remaining. With practice, judging when you should go and when you should stop becomes easier. There are times to “definitely go” and times to “definitely stop.” But there are points where you would “probably go” and “probably stop.” There’s also “not-sure-if-I-should-go-or-stop.” The closer the two decisions get, the blurrier the decision.
Other variables muck up your decision-making process, though, and they stack up fast! For example, are you towing anything? Do you have kids in the car? Are you familiar with how long the yellow light is (because let’s face it, some are annoyingly much longer than others)? Is there a camera at the intersection? Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya? All of these factors make the decision much more complicated. A camera-monitored intersection (that is, if you know which ones are) probably sways more of your decisions to ‘stop.’ Same thing with toting kids or if you know it’s a short light. If you’re towing a trailer, you might be more inclined to go. Well, what if you’re towing a trailer and you have a car-full of kiddos and the intersection has a quick yellow and it’s monitored . . . and it turns yellow on you? See? Your brain thinks about this every time.
(The worst is when you’ve made up your mind and it happens to be on the riskier side of ‘go’ and all of a sudden you spot a police officer. You can either freak out and slam on the brakes and get his attention or speed through and hope you don’t get his attention.)
Yellow lights essentially invoke you to make a bunch of decisions all at the same time. Beginners don’t know to think about as many and so as it turns out, it’s a little easier. Experienced drivers, on the other hand, have tons of yellows under their belt, but their brain goes through a lot more steps to get a decision.
You’re still going to get caught off guard sometimes by yellow. It’s in their nature. You can even have a bunch of general rules-of-thumb for every factor. The problem is: you run out of thumbs pretty quickly!