TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Without a cross-town freeway, getting around Tucson takes some patience.
"When it takes people more time to get across town and we get more congested and our population increases, I think what you see from people is maybe a lot more people that are impatient, running the red lights,” said Michael Graham from the Tucson Department of Transportation.
Transportation officials were concerned that these issues would get worse after two recent changes in traffic laws. One was in 2020, when Arizona changed penalties for speeding — so that drivers going ten miles an hour above speed limit wouldn't receive a traffic citation.
“We definitely have our fair share of people who speed, people who run red lights, and street racing,” Deputy Marissa Hernandez, Pima County Sheriff.
But Pima County data shows a significant decrease in speeding violations over the past decade.
“When we do pull somebody over and we do give them a ticket, or have that conversation with them, the goal is to change their driving behavior,” Hernandez said.
Outside of the Pima County Sheriff, there are other organizations that could have contributed to this change. Tucson Department of Transportation (TDOT) has found discrete ways to incentivize drivers against speeding.
“We are retiming our traffic signals that if you do the speed limit on our arterial streets, you have more of a chance to hit green lights than if you drive 10-15 miles an hour over the speed limit,” Graham said.
The second law was implemented in 2016 - when Tucson voters ended the use of red-light cameras. But since then, Pima County data shows no significant trend upwards or downwards in red light run-throughs. The numbers slightly decrease from 2019 to 2021, when TDOT started installing flashing yellow arrows at left turn light signals. This replaces the previous green circle light - the color change is supposed to remind left-turners to yield, instead of running the red.
“We’ve seen a 40% reduction in left-turn crashes at intersections that feature a flashing yellow arrow,” Graham said.
Graham says TDOT is developing even more new technology with traffic engineering, to keep the roadways safe.