Blue lights at traffic signals are newest tools to stop red-light runners

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Drivers everywhere know the typical green, yellow, and red lights of a traffic signal.

On Tuesday, University of Kansas researchers, working with the cities of Overland Park and Lawrence, began an experiment into adding another colored light to the signal arms: blue.

Eric Fitzsimmons, a KU researcher working on the test project, said the omni-directional blue lights allow police to see who is running red lights, even if they're not behind them.

"Drivers don't need to worry about it. It's not something they need to be concerned with. We're not looking at them, we're not spying on them," Fitzsimmons said "It's a way to help law enforcement do their job more effectively, more efficiently."

Crews installed the blue lights on the signal masts at the intersections of Quivira and College and 75th and Metcalf in Overland Park on Tuesday.

They plan to install lights at 23rd and Iowa and 23rd and Louisiana in Lawrence soon as well.

All four intersections were chosen for their heavy traffic, accident history and difficulty to monitor by traditional means.

The lights will stay up for at least six months, while researchers and city officials monitor the intersections to see if crash rates drop. Afterwards, the cities involved may choose whether or not to expand the program.

"If it looks like it's a good thing for the police, we look at investing more money into it," said Brian Shields, Overland Park's city traffic engineer.

In Kansas, where red light cameras have never come into fashion, the lights represent a cheaper, less intrusive tool to try to cut down crashes at intersections.

Each light costs between $120 and $150, compared to thousands for a camera.

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