U of L researchers working on getting drivers out of the 'yellow light dilemma' zone

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Among the hustle and bustle of daily life, sometimes you're forced to slow down. But the yellow light at every intersection can be cause for hesitation: slow down or put the pedal to the metal. Drivers have to make split second decisions.

That area approaching an intersection is called a "dilemma zone" when the traffic light changes from green to yellow. Researchers at the University of Louisville are looking at extending green lights at certain times so drivers don't get stuck in that dreaded zone.

Dr. Richard Li at U of L said the dilemma zone is different for every vehicle depending on speed, deceleration rate and perception and reaction time. He and his students have been studying driver behavior through a driving simulator as well as using data collected from a radar sensor at a busy intersection.

“If you can capture individual vehicles trajectory through the radar sensor, you might be able to provide more accurate protection to drivers over the dilemma zone,” Li said.

The sensor can scan traffic up to 600 feet away and pick up on vehicle characteristics like speed. The goal of the study is to have fewer drivers in the dilemma zone by increasing the length of a green light. The radar sensor could individualize the traffic signals meaning if it senses a car about to approach the dilemma zone, the light will stay green longer.

“It will extend the green time by a certain seconds so to ensure the vehicle can get out of the dilemma zone before the signal changes from green to yellow,” Li said.

Li added it's not possible to completely get rid of the dilemma zone for all drivers. The U of L study is expected to wrap up by the end of the month.

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