While on the subject of traffic lights, here’s another oddity that traffic lights in the U.S. exhibit: they have incredibly long red and yellow phases. Of course, when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. It’s because most roads here have multiple lanes in each direction (some even have 3 or 4, which is very unusual in Europe) and the speed limit is fairly high, usually around 55 mph, which is about 88 km/h. Naturally, if you approach a light that has just turned yellow at such high speeds, you need quite a bit of distance to bring the vehicle to a full stop. Therefore, the yellow phase is quite long.
But that doesn’t explain why the red phase on some traffic lights is insanely long. Sometimes I find myself listening to your regular 3-minute, radio-friendly song on the radio while waiting for a red light to turn green – and I hear the entire song, start to finish, just waiting there! It drives me nuts.
Since the yellow phases are so long, and people of course know that, a lot of times you see someone from far, far away accelerating the car still trying to make the yellow phase. And sometimes they just barely make it, or when the light has already turned green for cross traffic. And since you see this quite often here, the city of Carlsbad is doing the only thing it can do: try to make a profit from it. So they put up red light cameras on pretty much all major (and a lot of the times even really minor) intersections. So remember kids: when you’re in Carlsbad, try not to run a red light or it will cost you (around $400 as one of my housemates had to find out – the hard way ;))