Regulation

What's an Intersection? The Definition Can Mean Big Bucks.

|

Only I can save you from the terror of the expanded traffic intersection!

In most of the United States, a traffic intersection is considered to start at the painted stop line or at a crosswalk. In Arizona, an intersection starts at an invisible line defining the extension of a curb. Sounds like boring traffic engineer stuff, right? Except, the definition of an intersection matters if you enter one after the light turns red — especially if there's a photo-enforcement camera focused on your tail. So Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's veto of a bill that would have brought the state's definition in line with that prevailing elsewhere has dollars-and-cents implications.

As theNewspaper points out, the intersection definition in HB 2557 would have bought drivers a little slack:

Under Arizona law, drivers may enter an intersection on a yellow light. By moving back what constitutes the start of the intersection by 24 to 38 feet, vehicles have more breathing room to clear an intersection without getting a ticket. The bill has the same effect as extending the duration of a yellow light by 0.2 to 0.6 seconds, depending on the width of the intersection and the speed of traffic. The vast majority of straight-through red light camera tickets are issued in those first few tenths of a second.

Most drivers in the vast majority of states are accustomed to hitting the brakes at clearly delineated stop lines or crosswalks, It's the same standard from place to place, and easy enough to figure out. Arizona's variation from that standard catches drivers unawares and keeps the photo-enforcement cameras clicking. A few years ago, the Copper State's essentially unique idea of what constitute's an intersection raised eyebrows at the Federal Highway Administration, even when Tucson took the trouble to paint a confusing guess-what-I-am third line on the pavement:

Arizona law states that a driver facing a red light may not enter the intersection, which is defined as the prolongation of the lateral curb lines where the two streets meet. The transverse violation line and "WAIT" message are being used to identify the actual line a driver cannot cross without being in the intersection and thus in violation of the red signal under Arizona law. However, it is unlikely that drivers from other States who encounter these markings in Arizona would understand their meaning or intent.

Later entry into an intersection, plus confused drivers, equals money for Arizona governments and wel-connected photo-enforcement companies, who share the revenue.

Of course, Governor Brewer didn't cite revenue as the reason for vetoing a seemingly technical traffic bill. Nope — it's all about safety (PDF).

Local law enforcement officers have stated that the most dangerous place in city traffic is the intersection. This danger can only be heightened by increasing the time in which a collision may occur while simultaneously attempting to reeducate drivers concerning where the boundaries lie. The law enforcement community has bbeen very clear that widening intersections will increase the possibility of collisions.

Yeah. Can't have that carnage that's leaving piles of bodies under traffic lights everywhere else. It's not about the money, at all.

NEXT: Will Gay Rights Turn Out to Be Obama's Biggest Legacy?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. What style manual are you guys using?

    Shouldn’t “copper state” be uppercase?

    1. LOL, SIV. Style manuals are so twentieth century.

    2. I thought it was slang for “police state”.

  2. What’s a “hittig”?

    1. A member of the Hittites who specializes in horse manure removal?

    2. Nitpickers, I say. Nitpickers all!

      1. Made you fix it! As Nelson Muntz likes to say… HA HA!

      2. You’re learning, Tucille, you’re learning.

  3. I got out of a red light camera ticket in CA four years ago because there was no defined crosswalk and I went in and asked the judge to determine what part of my car was in the intersection. Since the far curb was not visible in the picture, they couldn’t determine if I was in the intersection or not.

    The poor guy that went before me had a ticket from the same intersection and got a $425 fine + fees and court costs. I stuck around to watch the three people after me use the same defense and two of them got off. I got followed by two cruisers the 10 miles from Moreno Valley to the Mission Inn (Riverside) when I left the courthouse. Went 3-5 below the speed limit and used my indicator at every turn. They wanted me so bad and I just smiled and waved at the fucks when I pulled into the garage.

    1. So you are telling me that we a should take a cab if we want to use that defense….and be sure to be dropped off a few blocks away from your house. I’m actually surprised they didn’t pull you over for some creative reason.

      1. Especially since he assaulted them by waiving and smiling.

        1. Lol. ‘Emotional battery of a police officer’?

          1. Just about.

            Read the story at the end of the post.

            http://preparednesspro.com/pur…..-reliance/

    2. obviously sloopy shoulda got a beatdown for resisting…& sodomy or something.

  4. Sounds like boring traffic engineer stuff, right?

    I think you had it right at the beginning. Sometimes it seems like you guys have to search hard for something to bitch about.

    1. Pissant troll is whinging.

    2. Um, maybe you didn’t read the rest of the article where Brewer vetoed a bill that would clarify where the fucking intersection starts and why it’s fucked up to have the intersection start 40 feet before the crosswalk.

    3. Yes, because state governments butt-fucking drivers by means of retarded, unjustifiable traffic law in order to collect more revenue is really trivial, and nobody should talk about it.

      1. I guess I like to pace my outrage.

        1. Or you’re a POS troll.

    4. And it’s not like a conviction for “running a red light” is any more serious than a parking ticket. And insurance companies totally understand when the law is fucked up and won’t jack your rates sky-high when you explain this to them.

  5. In Arizona, an intersection starts at an invisible line defining the extension of a curb. Sounds like boring traffic engineer stuff, right?

    No, it sounds like an unacceptably impractical standard to expect drivers to be able to comply with.

    1. (…which makes it an excellent excuse to stop random drivers on a whim for a good ‘ole violatin’ of their rights.)

  6. Vague Rules + Snow Birds = Buckets o’ Money.

    1. Can you give a ticket to someone in a golf cart?

      1. Yes. Golf carts in retirement communities have brake lights and turn signals and also have license plates of some sort (at least they did 19 years ago). They have to be street legal, and are subject to all traffic laws when they are on public thoroughfares.

        1. Only retired politicians drive golf carts, and those fuckers need to be tracked. Keep the license plates on them, I say!

          1. The good news is that anyone with a street legal golf cart is a raisin, and they do tend to self-segregate and wall themselves off from regular people.

      2. You can get a ticket on anything with wheels that travels faster than a walking pace.

        1. I got a couple of moving traffic violations on a bicycle as a yute.

          1. I would’ve fully expected there to be two yutes…

          2. I got an OUI on a bicycle (after getting hit by a kid who ran a red light, a fact that the cop conveniently left out of the report, but that’s another story).

            1. OUI? Othering Under the Influence? Is that what they call getting drunk and being a douche (NTTAWWT)?

      3. Snow birds don’t ride around in golf carts. They’re retired seniors from the NE through Michigan that live off their fat state pensions and SS.

        They come down here in their huge RV’s to get out of the hell-hole that is the northern US during the winter and enjoy the weather before it turns into the hellhole that is southern AZ in the summer.

        They drive large cars at approx 15 mph *below* the speed limit in the passing lane, turn right from the left hand lane (and vice-versa) after coming to a complete stop. And have no conceptof what that damn double yellow line lane in the middle of the road is used for.

        1. Don’t forget that the left turn indicator is welded into the on position.

        2. They drive large cars at approx 15 mph *below* the speed limit in the passing lane, turn right from the left hand lane (and vice-versa) after coming to a complete stop. And have no conceptof what that damn double yellow line lane in the middle of the road is used for.

          Ahh, yes, that takes me back. To this day when I see anyone exhibiting the above behaviors or driving with their blinker on I run the risk of having a full on Vietnam style PTSD flashback.

        3. The Yuma chamber of commerce reminds all year-round residents to refer to our seasonal residents as “winter visitors” or “winter residents.” The term “snow bird” is offensive and should be avoided.

          1. The good news is the raisins spend all their time behind the gates of their own little villages. It’s the snowbirds that wreak havoc on the roads.

  7. Instead of intersections with traffic light controls, why not just use roundabouts like the Brits do?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundabout

    They’re safer and much more efficient, since most of the time drivers only need to slow down instead of stopping.

    1. New Jersey has ’roundabouts’ (traffic circles), and I can guarantee they are NOT at all safe, nor are they efficient, what with everyone trying to beat opposing traffic into the circle and everyone failing to yield. I think you need drivers from a somewhat polite population for these to work.

      1. British localities have begun installing lights at traffic circles, for your information. Brits, eh?

        1. Roundabouts work great in low density traffic and fail totally in high density traffic which is why they install lights to regulate entry into the roundabout in urban settings.

          1. Rural roads between Baldock and Luton, where there are about three cars at any one time, ever, isn’t a place of high density traffic. They’re installing them to fuck with drivers, since, from what I saw, a great number of these new light-restricted traffic circles/roundabouts also have cameras installed next to them.

            1. And to clarify, when I say rural, I mean rural. These aren’t even suburbs or villages I’m talking about.

            2. I haven’t driven in England for about 5 years.

              This basically defeats the entire purpose of the roundabout. Pure fucking government evil.

              1. They’re from the government, Kinnath, and they’re here to help. Now pay the fucking ticket or lose your fucking license!

          2. Roundabouts work great in low density traffic and fail totally in high density traffic which

            There are cities in SouthEast Asia which might disagree.*

            Caveats apply.

            1. High-density traffic roundabouts require flow-control traffic lights and a well trained populace. {neither of which exist in France to my knowledge}

              1. Libertarian roundabout (no traffic lights): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5saaNf-O8U

                See? Chaos ensues when libertarians run everything.

              2. Time lapse of uber-libertarian roundabout.

                This one’s actually really flippin cool. Stongly recommend a view:

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?N…..=endscreen

                1. The one at 1:30 looks to have a control light.

    2. Because there’s no $ in it. Same with speed bumps in neighborhoods and increasing the yellow phase of a traffic light. They are safe – and difficult to not comply with legally.

      Everyone knows that they work to increase the safety. They just don’t generate revenue. And _that_ is the true prupose of government.

    3. They’ve put several in up my way and, after a bit of a learning curve, they seem to work out will.

      1. *well*
        Can someone install a fucking ‘preview’ function!

    4. They’re safer and much more efficient, since most of the time drivers only need to slow down instead of stopping.

      Clearly, you’ve never driven roundabouts, known as traffic circles, in DC.

      They’re the spawn of Satan’s weeping anus.

      1. I’ve driven in England, and they suck there, too, in my opinion. But that’s me — I’m sure plenty of people like them.

        1. I’ve driven roundabouts in England, Ireland, and France. This biggest problem is learning how roundabouts work in England and Ireland, and then tyring to go the opposite direction in France.

          1. “tyring” – is that the British spelling?

            Roundabouts suck – especially in Europe. Stay in the outer ring and people try to ram you to get in, move to the inner ring and noone will let you out when you reach your exit.

            And I love AZ, but our leg’ has a split personailty – these are the same people who forced the removal of speed cameras on the highways, voted in concealed carry without a permit, and voted for increased police harrassment in the name of fighting illegal immigration and this red-light camera crap

            1. I’ve riden in cars driven by the natives, and roundabouts work as slick as can be when you know what the hell you’re doing.

              I think you need to grow up as a kid riding without someone else for your whole life to really grok a roundabout.

              1. fuck

                without

            2. Yeah, those halfway states really infuriate me — great on some stuff, awful on other stuff. Can’t liberty just RULE, God damn it?

            3. Stay in the outer ring and people try to ram you to get in, move to the inner ring and noone will let you out when you reach your exit.

              “Hey kids, there’s Big Ben again.”

              1. Just what I was thinking.

        2. One year I was trying to come off the Cape on a Saturday, when all of Boston and Connecticut and was trying to come onto the Cape. It took hours to get through the circle at Orleans, since the millions of cars coming in, already in the circle, had the right of way.

          1. The roundabout in Portsmouth NH sucks ass.

    5. safer and much more efficient

      Someone missed the point entirely.

    6. It really makes absolutely no difference, because the government will find a way to fuck with your wallet anyway, traffic circle or intersection.

  8. Recently on reason.tv:

    https://reason.com/blog/2011/10…..ttle-again

    Summary (if you don’t already know): LA County acknowledged that they knew red light camera-intersections were actually increasing the number of accidents in those intersections. 99% of the tickets were for rolling right turns without coming to a complete stop – not exactly a serious safety hazard.

    They don’t have them anymore.

  9. Cop charged with beating teens at large 12:11 p.m.
    An arrest warrant has been issued for former DeKalb County police officer Arthur Parker III. Parker is one of three DeKalb officers indicted Thursday on racketeering, aggravated assault and battery charges, among others, for allegedly beating handcuffed teens in 2010 and 2011.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb…..35698.html

  10. Here’s the only reason that the bill was introduced. It’s not like they actually care about the little people

  11. I lived in AZ for ~5 years and never knew this before now. I always just pulled up to the crosswalk or stop line. I guess I’m lucky they didn’t have those fucking cameras everywhere at that time. Who knows how much revenue the state might have made off of me.

    1. Hell, I grew up here, go my license here and I didn’t know that.

      1. Nobody does, which is why the whole “reeducating the public” line is bullshit.

  12. I wonder if the arbitrarity of this law might actually cause some collisions. I can see someone getting bit by this and then deciding that every time they see a yellow light they will slam on brakes rather than risk it. Eventually they get rear-ended by a tailgater.

  13. Question: why do red light camera proponents (including Brewer) cite “law enforcement” as experts? How are police officers experts on traffic engineering? How about consulting with REAL experts: traffic engineers? Of course, any competent traffic engineer would define the beginning of the intersection as the STOP line prior to the crosswalk (and add time to the all-red clearance). But a sensible, predictable intersection isn’t as lucrative. Hence, Arizona’s red light camera travesty.

    Also, the definition of intersection may seem like a little thing, but it’s not when you live in Tucson like I do and a single red light “infraction” sets you back $330.

  14. Just got my ticket from tucson. For the record, the ‘violation line’ was about 30 feet past the stop line that’s right before the crosswalk. I thought i was well within the intersection when my pictures were taken.

    I should have sped up in the name of compliance and safety.

    The state’s description is from the perspective of the middle of the intersection when they say “back,” or “expanding the intersection,” not from the perspective of everyone who uses the road.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.