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An Echo Press Editorial: Reduce your crash odds at traffic lights

Now that we've received our first blast of winter — more than 14 inches of snow — and the winter travel advisories have been lifted, there's still something drivers need to heed: traffic lights.

Many drivers don't realize that even if they are stopped at a red light, they can still get into a crash. And just because they're traveling at lower speeds in town, drivers can still collide into other vehicles and get injured.

Last week, The Hartford auto insurance company pointed out the dangers in a newsletter, noting that many crashes occur while drivers are approaching a red light, sitting at a red light, or when they're moving into the intersection once the light turns green.

Here are some tips to remember:

Approaching the light

• A stale green light (a light that has been green since you first saw it) indicates that

the light may turn yellow at any time. Be prepared to slow down and stop when you approach a stale green light. Do not run a red light!

• Slow down and show your brake lights early so that the vehicle behind you knows

you are slowing down. This will help prevent you from being rear-ended.

Stopping at the red light

Most drivers are familiar with the 3/4/5 second rule for maintaining space cushion, but do not maintain space cushion when stopped at the light. Maintaining space between you and the vehicle in front is still important because:

• If any car in front of you stalls, you can still maneuver around the line of vehicles.

• The vehicle in front could roll back into your vehicle while shifting into gears.

• If another vehicles taps into the back of your vehicle, you will be less likely to be pushed into the car in front.

• If your foot slips off the brake, you will be less likely to rear-end the vehicle in front.

• It may reduce the potential for carjacking, leaving you a way out.

The general rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you touching the pavement. Leave an adequate space cushion so you can maneuver around it.

While at the red light

• Do not take this time to make phone calls, text or complete paperwork. Texting or talking on the phone while stopped at a light can pose a risk.

• According to AAA, studies show that a driver may need up to 27 seconds to fully restore their mental focus after ending a call or texting from a voice controlled system in a car.

• Keep your eyes moving, including checking the signals and traffic patterns. Many drivers catch a glimpse of the lane to the left of them moving, and assume the light is green. This could be the left turn lane moving. Just because one lane is moving doesn't mean your lane is.

When the light turns green

• Look both ways prior to entering the intersection.

• Ever notice that when the light turns green, every driver in line takes his foot off the brake and onto the accelerator? Keep your foot on the brake until the vehicle in front of you establishes an adequate space cushion, and then proceed.

Some of these tips may seem obvious to experienced drivers but it's always a good idea to review your own driving habits and do everything you can to avoid a trip to the body shop — or the hospital.

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