September 6, 2012

Unnecessary Traffic Lights

Have you ever pulled up to a stoplight and waited… and waited… while there was no other traffic in sight?

Three minutes later, the light finally changes, and you pull away… with no other traffic in sight?

A couple of years ago, this happened to me late at night while I was traveling in the midwest. I sat there and kept thinking: what a useless stoplight. What am I waiting for?

I could see clearly from all directions, and there wasn’t a single car around. Yet I kept waiting at that useless light for no good reason.

Finally I decided to go for it. Forget stoplights! I said out loud, or something to that effect. Then I pulled through the intersection and went on my way with a triumphant fist-pump.

It felt great. I didn’t get arrested by a commando team of traffic cops, and I enjoyed a strange sense of liberation for having beaten the long wait.

After that, I made an active decision to no longer stop at useless traffic lights. It wasn’t an impulsive move; it was a rational choice based on cost-benefit analysis. If I’m sure it’s safe, then the only risk is being spotted by law enforcement or perhaps a traffic camera.

I decided I was prepared to take that risk, and since then I’ve run many a useless light. I always stop to make sure it’s safe, and my rule is “When in doubt, don’t risk it.” Otherwise, though, I decided I’d no longer worry about wasting time at unnecessary stops.

It’s been a great decision.

Since choosing to ignore unnecessary stoplights, my life has improved. Each time I complete the stoplight resistance with a smile on my face and another fist-pump after successfully clearing the intersection.

But then I realized something.

The realization wasn’t that waiting forever at intersections with no one around is dumb. I should have stopped worrying about it and started running them long ago.

The big realization was that I had been waiting needlessly only because that’s what I had been conditioned to do. It wasn’t a big deal to tread carefully and then run the light—the big deal was how social obedience had ensured I would spend years NOT running the light.

***

Sometimes people say that you shouldn’t worry about anything. But this seems overly optimistic.

There are many things worth worrying about. The challenge, however, is to worry about the right things.

In business, worry about making money and changing people’s lives.

In adventure, worry about choosing adventure. Don’t sit it out.

In life, worry about what really matters. Worry about the fact that it is short and that no day can be repeated.

But don’t worry about unnecessary stoplights. Don’t worry about things that don’t matter.

Everything else is flexible.

###

Image: Creamaster

Comment on this article

79 Responses to “Unnecessary Traffic Lights”

  1. Very nice metaphor Chris-breaking through the conditioning that has been ingrained over many years seems to be a never ending process…but this feels like a new conditioning in itself. Much thanks -George

  2. I’m surprised you haven’t been beaten down by the safety patrol in the comments. Next time, throw up the horns instead of just a fist pump! By the way, I enjoyed the book and added it to the “must reads” at my site. Keep up the good work!

  3. On the other side of the coin, it is also good to look out for metaphorical traffic lights that actually have a use you’re just not aware of. The most important part of this advice is to “tread carefully” when you’re going to go against social conditioning. Maybe it’s useless; maybe it’s very important. You have to have your eyes open to find out which.

  4. It’s kind of scary how often the “A-listers” are urging for people to do this, this, and this, and to never go away from the set boundries. Perhaps that’s why they’re the A-listers – they’re keeping everybody else from avoiding the stupid things that they do, thus making them able to be more successful. If one can convince someone to take the wrong route, they’ll generally stop on top for longer, right?

    This is probably one of the greatest articles I’ve read in a long time – I’m unable to drive, but it’s message is still of great significance. Do be uniform – be the one that stands out, for they’re generally the one who can have the most power.

  5. I’m hoping that it’s not improper to let you know that I have a man-crush on you. Don’t worry; my wife is fully aware.
    This post makes me feel so good about the fact that I look at traffic lights, dotted lines, solid lines, yield signs, stop signs and speed limits as simple suggestions.
    Chris is the man!

  6. I have the same philosophy about useless traffic lights, which I have observed for a number of years now; isn’t it liberating?? Working past that social conditioning for obedience has been a harder challenge, but I am no longer making my decisions based on fear or “supposed to.” Next step; take the leap. Working on that next step. :)

  7. This reminded me of Naples – where traffic lights are unnecessary simply because no one pays any attention to them anyway. I believe the saying goes “In Milan, traffic lights are compulsory. In Rome, they are a suggestion. In Naples, they are decoration.”

    Thanks for the good advice, Chris! x

  8. I was this guy, used to go to work at 3:45AM, I was lucky if I saw 3-4 cars during my whole ride in, so I figured, just stop at a light, check for traffic, then go. I used to blow traffic lights all the time, UNTIL I got busted for not one, but two lights on the same stretch. Luckily the cop was cool and only ticketed me for one, but it was still a costly mistake. (I was also riding with my ex, who did the same thing, when she got busted.)

  9. This is definitely one of my favourite articles of late. I am a huge believer of this philosophy and never understood why people think this way of thinking is so reckless. Living in Japan a decade ago where people won’t even cross the road on foot (in the middle of a rice paddy with no cars in sight) if there’s a red light really made it clear to me that obedience was completely effing ridiculous in SO many cases. I don’t want to be a drone. Give me a *good reason* to follow your rules otherwise I’ll follow my own, thanks. Love this Chris!

  10. Conditioning is so powerful most of the time that we actually don’t question our own thoughts and beliefs. We are the biggest barrier to the life we want. Question all beliefs, all rule following and go in search of the truth.

    One other thought, waiting for a traffic signal doesn’t have to be a nuisance. While you wait tune inward, become mindful and enjoy getting to know who you are when you are not busy doing.

    You can also breathe in peace as you wait and breathe out a smile.

  11. Chris it’s funny you wrote about running red lights today as that is exactly what I did (safely and carefully ) on the way to a meeting this morning. It felt great and I was surprised to realize that I had not done that in years. Societal expectations are insidious and living a free life is a process of constantly reviewing whether you are acting from who you really are or from who society expects you to be. It is hard work to be free.

  12. Many years ago, I was in Seoul, and had an early Saturday morning golf outing. A driver picked me up at my hotel around 6:30AM and proceeded to run red light after red light. This seemed to be normal behavior. At other times of the day, traffic laws were observed.

  13. I love the column Chris – but I do have to point out that there are major safety risks with this particular action.

    AND – you have to be aware of what you can’t see – motorcyclists, bicyclists, etc. who would not be expecting to see someone running the red light. You could cause a major accident that way, and I want to be able to read your columns and books for a very, very long time! :-D

    But…on the subject of the metaphor? Heck yeah! One of the best things I did for myself this year is stop requiring myself to do all those “You shoulds…” and simply process the information and then make my own decisions. My health is much better, as is my business.

    A traffic stoplight is something you should listen to. But any other kind of stoplight is simply a signal to look, listen, and make your own decision, rather than a guide to a metaphorical path.

  14. It’s a powerful metaphor, but as a cyclist living in a town where drivers routinely run red lights, all I can say is UNLIKE!

  15. The metaphor is perfect. Thank you.

  16. Food for thought, Chris. I prefer to stop for traffic lights–my life is such that I appreciate the time take a pause. Also, I like the feeling of honoring the law, regardles of who, if anyone, is watching, and appreciate when others do, as well.

  17. THE FACTS from the Federal Highway Safety Administration: Red-light running is a serious intersection safety issue across the nation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) red-light running crashes alone caused 762 deaths in 2008, and an estimated 165,000 people are injured annually by red-light runners.

  18. Interesting concept, Chris! I recently read a sign that said “No man is rich enough to buy back his past” – which hones in on the last part of your post here “In life, worry about what really matters. Worry about the fact that it is short and that no day can be repeated.”

    As you may recall, my son died two years ago suddenly and tragically – without going into more detail I will just say that it taught all of us that … LIFE IS SHORT!!!

    I agree with your point that you should worry about the important things and let the other stuff go!

    Lisa

  19. Love you madly, Chris, but as the owner of a once-unruly dog, I can only admire this as a metaphor. (My dog and I have been lucky..but that wasn’t the case for another dog I adored.)

  20. Great metaphor for how social conditioning is sometimes a waste of time, but sometimes it’s downright dangerous too. As in your example, we’re taking a bigger risk sitting in our car late at night than cautiously proceeding through the intersection. You have me thinking about areas of my business where I’m treading too cautiously (because that’s the way it’s done) and maybe endangering my livelihood.

  21. It’s articles like these that keep me coming back.

  22. I am so incredibly happy that you wrote this post. I thought that I was the only one.

    I ALSO DO THIS!

    Ever since I was 17 I have never followed a law that doesn’t make logical sense to me, or that I don’t feel applies to me. People may believe that this is dangerous, but when you have a society full of rational and caring people, the less rules you need.

    The more rules you have, the more rules you are going to have, until you create rules and laws that don’t make any sense and you can’t even remember where they came from.

    Not only that, but there are rules and laws that actually hurt people, take away things that people earn, and put people down. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right.

    And just because it’s illegal, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    So, I depend on my rational judgement to make decisions.

  23. Chris- you are the man. Seriously. Nice work. I actually got in an argument with my husband last weekend because in a matter of 20 minutes he ran a stop sign AND was about to drive down a one way street, somehow overlooking the two big “DO NOT ENTER” signs. We were in a new town and just cruising around. There was NO traffic on the road at all, and he said he was looking around and proceeding with caution and just not worrying about the signs.

    My argument was that the signs are there for a reason, and it is dangerous to overlook them. I also accused him of being aloof. I’ve been put in my place — I guess I’ll go apologize now.

  24. I love this analogy.

    It also brings to mind the difference between traffic design and patterns in the U.S. and in many Asian countries (at least once you get away from the more Westernized cities) that I’m sure you’ve noticed, Chris.

    In the U.S., we tend to trust things like traffic lights and painted lanes to keep us in line, literally. In Asian countries, it’s much more of a free for all… very few lights, no lanes. But people have figured out how to flow with traffic, pay attention to each other, stay alert, and somehow it all works out (for the most part). Maybe another metaphor for us to learn from.

  25. September 7, 2012

    Marie-France Roy

    I believe a lot of rules are put into place to prevent stupid people from doing stupid things. But then the rest of us suffer!

  26. Towns in Europe have be doing away with traffic control completely and the accidents have gone down.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/controlled-chaos-european-cities-do-away-with-traffic-signs-a-448747.html

    Enjoy reading about your work and your play. Keep it UP!

  27. I understand the spirit of the article, but, you are assuming that people have the good judgement to know when to run the red lights and when to realise they are there for a reason.

    On the road and in life in general I am not sure that such clear judgement is always on hand (both from myself and others!)

  28. September 7, 2012

    Kathryn Plett

    I am a big fan of yours Chris, but I cringe at what you are suggesting.

    Noting the another writers comment re: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) red-light running crashes alone caused 762 deaths in 2008, and an estimated 165,000 people are injured annually by red-light runners I am surprised.

    >>> Why do we have to be even more aware of the danger on the road because of your impatience to move along? <<>> I am surprised that you would promote “scoff-law” behavior.

    As a metaphor, well, I can understand that, but the real actions by those who run red lights or stop signs, I cannot.

  29. It is liberating!

    Our tourist is packed during summer months with often no place to park. There are a couple of unmarked “no man’s land” spaces in front of buildings. I’ve recently started using them to make quick stops for necessary store drop offs of my artwork. Who would have thought that one little non conventional act could make my heart race!?!

    Having lived here for over 35 years means I’ve probably spent months of time circling the street waiting for available marked spaces. Silly me!

  30. It is liberating!

    Our tourist town is packed during summer months with often no place to park. There are a couple of unmarked “no man’s land” spaces in front of buildings. I’ve recently started using them to make quick stops for necessary store drop offs of my artwork. Who would have thought that one little non conventional act could make my heart race!?!

    Having lived here for over 35 years means I’ve probably spent months of time circling the street waiting for available marked spaces. Silly me!

  31. Great article, thanks… It is scary to think how many other social pressure we succumb to without even realizing it. Similarly people obediently wait for permission to start something new, not realizing that the only permission that counts is there own.

  32. Unfortunately, actually running a red light doesn’t work in my city, as there are traffic cams everywhere. The cops might not zoom around the corner to take you down, but they will certainly send you a hefty fine in the mail!

    I do like the metaphor, though. We would all do better to look at the rules we’re mindlessly following and consider if they even apply to our situations.

  33. September 7, 2012

    Joseph Stafford

    Nice article. Being conscious to the fact you can choose to stay and wait is pretty cool too.

  34. Best. Timing. Ever.

    We have been conditioned to fear breaking the rules. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but I think it can really stifle our creativity because we become so afraid to take risks.

    I’m about to take a run one hell of a red light soon and it’s BECAUSE it scares the begeezus out of me that I know it’s worth doing. So excited!

  35. I agree, the world would be a much more exciting place if we all ignored the laws. Imagine ignoring the laws of physics or civility. You could rule the universe.

  36. “But don’t worry about unnecessary stoplights. Don’t worry about things that don’t matter.” I love this part here.

    It’s so funny, but a couple years ago, my sister and I were waiting at just such a useless stoplight, turning left. And just next to use was this truck, waiting to go straight. The light seemed like it would never change. I guess the person in the truck got fed up with the wait and they did something I’ve never seen before. They turned right (since right on red is legal), but then immediately swerved into a semi u-turn and made another right turn, which put them going where they needed to go, without running any lights. It was the oddest, loveliest thing ever.

    Anyway, it’s amazing how many things we do, that we’ve been conditioned to do, that we don’t even realize. My thing, is using your blinkers. If there are no cars around (or no cars that would need me to warn them that I’m turning) I refuse to use it. Most of my life I’ve lived on country backwoods dirt roads and blinkers are just pointless. But a friend of mine, always a stickler for the “rules” would always use her blinker… I’m like, are you telling the squirrels that you’re turning???

    Great post!

  37. Please keep an eye out for cyclists of which I am one .. and I can see that I’ll have to stop assuming cars will stop. I am a more reckless cyclist though – a bit of a hypocrite – cars are so potentially dangerous as touched on in earlier posts –

    Bought $100 Startup today – learned of this site and of Chris from latest issue of Psychology Today. I welcome my priorities being challenged and of upholding rules in alignment with my values.

    I start seeing a coach soon as well so hopefully the book + coach will propel me forward –

    Cheers (:

  38. I congratulate you on your breakthrough and I’ve come to the same realization in the past, however I then went on to realize how grateful I am to be able to trust that our roads are not like the chaos of third world countries, or even like the chaos of European cities like Italy and France! I will have a safe intersection while driving in the US and I love and fully appreciate how I can count on that. That said, in the middle of the night or at an obviously deserted light, I don’t think it hurts at all to take matters into your own hands, as long as you can see for miles in every direction. Cars can seemingly come from nowhere and at top speed, in my experience. Be careful everyone.

  39. Impossible to do such a thing here – we have automatic Red Light Cameras which photograph your licence plate if you have any portion of it in the intersection when the light is red – and sends a whopping fine in the mail, along with removing demerit points from one’s licence. And gods help you if it’s a holiday weekend – we have double demerit periods, and a simple traffic offence such as running a red light can result in a licence revocation!

  40. Montana, right? :)

  41. Excellent article! I’ve been doing this for years and have often wondered how many minutes/hours I’ve gotten back in my life a a result.

  42. While I’ve generally dismissed unnecessary rules and laws (traffic especially) it’s interesting how getting caught alters your thought process. I rode through a red light on my bike recently (after double-checking) and didn’t see a police SUV lurking nearby. There was really no danger in what I did, but the officer drove past me, pulled into a driveway ahead of me and as I was approaching put his arm out and beckoned me over to his car with his index finger. “Come hither, boy.” At least that’s what it felt like he was saying, despite being older than he was.

    I was so astonished I couldn’t say anything. He lectured me a bit about bicycles having to follow the same rules as cars and whether I knew he could give me a ticket. I mumbled something about understanding and he told me to not do it again. Within seconds of resuming my ride, I wished I’d gotten a ticket.

    But since that incident three weeks ago, I’ve not run a red light. It’s not been safe to do it, but I wonder how hard it will be for me to do it when it’s one of the lights you talk about above. I’m sure my heart rate and adrenalin will increase, but I don’t know whether I’ll run it or not.

  43. Chris, I happen to be employed in law enforcement. I have flagged your name in our national database as a potential threat to traffic safety.

    (just kiddin’)

  44. I have to disagree. It is a common Buddhist mindfulness practice to take moments of red lights in life and sit in meditation. I.e. life throws red lights to tell you to stop and think – literally and metaphorically. You can’t always be go go go without taking moments to ground yourself. And the direction you are going might be fallacy and therefore the red lights in life give you the ample oppty to stop, think, and wait until it is ready to move forward. The only social conditioning about it is if you sit at that light and waste your time text messaging, playing with the radio, or getting angry for being made to wait :)

  45. I’m all for non-conformity and breaking ridiculous rules (of course, what one person thinks is ridiculous could be sacrosanct to another). However, regarding your suggestion to ignore unneccessary stoplights, I say no. They may seem utterly absurd, but they were put where they were for a reason, ridiculous or not.

    Come to Maui sometime and see how frightening it is when red lights and stop signs mean nothing to locals and tourists alike. It’s not about breaking rules that upsets me. These drivers have a complete lack of respect for human life; potentially their own and any others that their car might kill because they didn’t want to do what’s legal and right action. Regardless of how certain you are that nothing awful might happen if you just “forget stoplights”, you never know. However you DO know it’s likely more safe to go on the green.

    What if you were to consider the next ridiculous stop sign you come to as an opportunity to pause and reflect instead of fist-pumping and fast-forwarding? Life IS short and we (all your friends and fans here) would hate to see your life cut short because you made the less ridiculous choice instead of the right one.

  46. Did this once in the middle of the night and immediately got pulled over.

    Went to the courthouse and got it dismissed.

    Now how’s that for a metaphor?

  47. Drivers in Italy have always followed the “traffic lights are optional” philosophy. Although I don’t think they think about it as deeply as you do!

  48. I agree with not letting meaningless things get in your way, but as for traffic lights, I’ll stop for them–I’ve been ticketed for that before :)

  49. Many many years ago, I suddenly had to drive a colleague across town to a pharmacy where her necessary prescriptions were available for the next half-hour only, then she’d be flying to Africa on a film shoot. I drove quickly but carefully along a path strewn with stop signs and stop lights. By the second or third stop I recognized emphatically that in this reality, these were optional stops. (Later, another friend called this the “straight on red” rule.) It’s one of the diamond experiences of my life, where layers of information, knowledge, influences, and experience compact to a single bright parable or icon. Whenever I recall it, I’m thrilled by that sense that I responded to my world intelligently. Stops are optional is potent to me. I understand why you’ve devoted a post to it, and there’s an iceberg under that tip. (Ooo, messy metaphors.)

  50. I like this a lot, Chris, and I see the value in it and the metaphor.

    That said, my liberation from conditioning has been somewhat the opposite. Growing up in an area where people pretty much made up their own laws and police were called derogatory names and drugs and crime were rampant, I chose to stick with the side of the law and got away from there when I was really young. I clearly remember people blowing red lights all the time, cursing while stuck at one, or riding on the back of a motorcycle doing 100mph at night, blowing red lights, and being terrified.

    So for me, breaking free has been more about not letting red lights get to me. They’re not my red lights, they’re just out there, and it doesn’t hurt me to stop at them and relax, enjoy the scenery, breathe. Living in the (crowded) suburbs as I do, I get a lot of practice when traffic dies down. Even at midnight without a soul in sight, I stop at the red lights and stick with the 25mph residential speed limit. It’s good practice for me, like meditation: what’s my hurry? I don’t need to be in a hurry.

    But it’s good to question even when we approach it from different directions :)

  51. I think my stop lights are people interested in my artwork, or people inviting me to speak…if people haven’t said they wanted it, i stop and wait. I think The permission is, if it makes sense go get the business or adventure i need!

  52. I have totally done this!… it does feel good. GO FOR IT!

  53. September 8, 2012

    Michael Patterson

    I like Kat O’s post and I also think that if everyone decided which rules are optional and which are not then we’d all be in danger. Certainly, some rules are sometimes apparently pointless but the greater principle that they are there to ensure our safety is not pointless and it’s the greater principle that you offend against by disregarding its apparently inconvenient imperfections. Don’t do it.

  54. Thought provoking! Since I’m doing so many other things while in the car, I don’t see traffic lights as a problem, even the long and useless ones. I’m talking on the phone, changing what’s playing on the audio, looking up a phone number to call next, jotting down my thoughts, reading, or whatever I can do until the light is green and I can legally drive. However, I agree, that if I didn’t have any thought that I could get a ticket, there are many times that I am very tempted to just drive, especially at night when I can clearly see that no-one else is around. Maybe some day traffic lights will be smarter than they are today.

  55. It took me moving to another country & doing a bit of research before I got this. I live inbetween Thailand & Australia. Over here there are many traffic lights that are generally ignored by the locals, in fact the only accident I was in for a long while was because a tourist stopped at a red light & the line of traffic behind them were so used to driving through the red light there was an 8 car fender bender.

    Also the fact that people were sitting on the roof of a truck that was doing 100 down the freeway freaked me out. Then I did a comparison of the deaths/injuries during Australian Easter one year & the Songkran in Thailand. What I found surprised me. The % of everything was about the same. In Australia where they wear/have seatbelts, helmets on bikes, freak out over drink driving, forbid sitting on the roof of a truck or in the back of a ute they had the same % of deaths & injuries as a % of population. That was when one light bulb went off. There is more then one way to skin a cat, and no one way is probably ever the right way. Although I did pass an accident once that the driver should have been wearing a seatbelt & would have saved them, but I guess mai pen rai.

  56. Chris – I laughed all the way through reading this. We know you’re a non-conformist but a rule-breaker as well?

    When my children were small one of them looked over my shoulder and noticed I was significantly over the posted speed limit. When I defended myself that we were very safe anyway, my daughter pointed out that I was nonetheless breaking the rule. And in a moment that came back to haunt me as a parent many times I impulsively stated that rules were made for people who don’t know how to think.

    We’ve laughed about that now that the children are adults but that statement left a lasting impression – and I trust a postive one – causing them to think rather than leading my children to be terrorist revolutionaries.

    Loved the post -

  57. Haha! I totally know where you are coming from on this one. At the same time, I can totally imagine Leo over at Zen Habits saying something like, “Use these overly long traffic lights as an opportunity to practice patience and mindfulness. What’s your hurry?”
    ;)

  58. September 9, 2012

    John Longoria

    I run these two lights in my neighborhood all the time. I need to get going…..been doing it for a while..thanks for the reinforcement….

  59. @ Michael Patterson

    That is exactly what type of mindset Chris was talking about breaking. You live in a world of illusions. Some rules can be bent, others broken, others you just cant get away from. The point that your common sense is constantly under suppression in Western countries in favor of conformity.

    The author never recommended recklessness; he is encouraging you to think for yourself. It’s funny (or maybe not so funny) how humans are actually some of the most domesticated animals on the planet via social norms and ‘raising’ children.

    @ Ben Anderson
    Yes, it took seeing how other people do it. In Sicily, sometimes the same thing is done. For example, there will be a red light at a crosswalk. If there is no one walking anymore, then the cars will proceed. In thailand, it depends on where you are. Usually the motorcycles will make a left turn (they drive on left side of road), then u turn quickly on the side street, then make another left turn, which puts them back in the direction of the stopped traffic, but past the stop light :) I’ve done this a lot and it makes sense for a motorbike.

  60. I remember riding in a taxi in Rio at night. I don’t know what it’s like there now but when we visited they never stopped at red lights at night!

  61. I made the same decision around reading the news. When I noticed each time I read the news that I’d become more and more upset, and that it was costing me a great amount of time and energy reading it and worrying about the world at large, I decided to not read the news anymore. It has not only given me free time to do things I love, it has reduced the stress in my life considerably. I have amended this decision somewhat to just read the headlines once in a while just to keep up with current events. But I don’t obsess over needing to know what is going on in the world. I stick with what I wish to know, rather than what the news media pushes in front of me.

  62. I’m really into the idea of letting go of useless/pointless/antiquated thought processes that are no longer serving us, and our careers/businesses/creative endeavors. It’s scary to give up those habits and worries that we’re accustomed to, like a weird security blanket of some sort. But it’s great to think what kind of personal reinvention and growth could be on the other side of letting those go. Great article!

  63. TY! Your story helped me through a tough day. I had too many traffic lights – a cluster of red lights.

    I drove on and completed the tasks. Focused on the “true” red lights in life.

    Brian.

  64. September 10, 2012

    Kathryn Plett

    Chris, this blog, ~it strikes me as incongruent with so much you espouse to…. to make the world a better place, to improve the condition around you, — to encourage breaking the law, and in some unforeseen moment create danger or death, goes against the thing (improving life) you have promoted.

    It seems like a minor victory to do a fist pump while sailing thru a red light unnoticed.
    I agree with Kat O’s perspective.

    While I recognize the lesson about not thinking about what were are doing or why… or change
    the example of running thru red lights leaves me unsettled….
    And as I drive intersections late at night I will always be looking out for Chris Guillebeau & company.

  65. This morning as I turned the door handle of my Omni hotel room I thought of you. Why? “I bet Chris could teach me how to get points even from these guys”. World domination contribution today-zero. :) Will check into it before I leave.

  66. I’m conflicted – your post “makes sense” and, yet, must we always and everywhere be in a hurry to get to the next thing, whatever that is? Maybe the “unnecessary stop light” is a way to indeed stop – and take a breath – not dash, not go …

  67. Good thing you didn’t mention where the traffic lights you jumped are. With no speed cameras around someone may rush to put one there to catch you next time. I tend to think it’s all about collecting as much money as possible through fines and so…
    Talking about safety, I do jump a few dangerous traffic lights (at roundabouts exits, for example) where I live (not US, don’t know how they work there). And yes, in places like Rio de Janeiro (and many many others) you don’t want to stop at night at traffic lights because you might be very probably robbed. God save our Common Sense over Rules and Law!

  68. I’ve been thinking about this, and so much more. I have so many years of blind conditioning to shed. It’s all making my husband very nervous.

  69. Great article! It wouldn’t always work in Australia to run a red light because many of our traffic lights have red light cameras or (revenue raisers as the general public call them). These cameras take a photo of your car if you run a red light, then a week later you get a fine in your mail box. However, if you have a GPS like mine that beeps if there is a red light camera or a speed camera you can avoid these cameras. My son told me that he watched a documentary where a city (I can’t remember which) removed all of it’s traffic lights. As a result the number road deaths and accidents fell dramatically because people had to actually think about what they were doing at intersections.

  70. Great Post!

    “Don’t worry about things that don’t matter.”

  71. I’ve done this before too. Lately, since the county has been hard hit for funds, I’ve found that the police have their preferred “fishing holes” and slow stop lights in the middle of no where in the middle of the night rank for that purpose. So, I agree, but check the bushes first. :-)

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  73. I read this on my phone while waiting for a dreaded dinner meeting at a restaurant. This post changed my mood for the entire night and brought back a similar experience that I had of running a useless red light and the rush of freedom that came with it. Thanks

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  75. September 15, 2012

    Joshua delos Reyes

    I hate those traffic lights especially when they don’t help at all. In my life, the traffic lights make me waste lots of time. I am worrying about the adventure and my finances. Those worries tend to make me stop or slow me down that’s why they’re not helpful to me at all. I need to start worrying about the right things by just doing it and focusing on what really matters.

  76. I find it interesting that as pedestrians, we do this sort of thing all the time. Once you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, though, it’s a whole different ball game.

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  78. One of the things I tell my kids is that people don’t just “go around making rules.” Even if we don’t know why, each rule was put in place in response to a need. So with traffic lights. At some point there was enough traffic to warrant a light there. It’s possible that patterns have shifted the traffic elsewhere. In our town I wish for consistency–six blocks of four-way stops, and all of a sudden a two-way stop. So, as I also tell my kids, you have the right to choose to break the rules; you do NOT have the right to cause harm to anyone else in doing so, and you MUST be prepared to face any consequences as a result.

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