Tucson has new blue traffic lights; how to avoid a ticket and stay safe

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 3:03 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 3:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The first lights from Tucson’s new blue light program were just installed at Grant and Craycroft, a hotspot for congestion and crashes. The lights are not cameras. They simply illuminate when a red light is active, and allows for any nearby officer to look for someone breaking the law. That had one of our viewers wondering, what exactly constitutes a red light violation?

Technically, you can’t enter the intersection after a light turns red and that blue light goes on. Sergeant David Fritsch with TPD told 13 Fact Finders, the real question is: Where does the intersection really start? And many of us have the wrong answer.

The intersection starts at the invisible line running across from curb to curb. “Many drivers think it’s the cross walk lines... or the white stop bar. But there’s actually quite a bit of distance. The Craycroft and Grant intersection, for example, has 10 to 15 feet between the crosswalk and where the intersection begins,” said Fritsch.

Officers don’t want you to take a risk. But, if you make it into the intersection before the light turns red - and the blue light goes on - Fritsch said that would be lawful and safe.

Again, there are no cameras in these lights - only nearby officers are watching, so there is a human element. That also means decisions are not always “blue and red.” There’s some gray area.

“By definition of the law, you are not allowed to stop within a crosswalk,” said Fritsch, “But, we as officers operate on a human level, understand that certain things like reaction time, proper braking distance, things like that. So, if you stop and you stop in the crosswalk, yes, there’s some reasonableness that we apply to the law.”

What about a left turn? Fritsch said, there’s actually a city code that says you can’t enter the intersection if you can’t make it through the intersection before the light turns.

But, Arizona state law says you’re allowed to clear the intersection because you’ve already entered, just first make sure it’s safe. Who will be watching the blue light, and from where, to potentially write you a ticket? Traffic officers will be in a safe spot, like a parking lot, from a block or so away.

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