Drivers think cars should pull away from a green traffic light in less than three seconds, or face the wrath of those stuck behind. That’s according to new research from the RAC, which revealed almost half of British motorists think it should take “no more than three seconds” to get going when the lights turn green.

The survey of almost 2,500 drivers found 46 percent think motorists should drive off in less than three seconds, with 35 percent saying they’d allow four to six seconds of grace. Just seven percent said they were happy for other drivers to take as long as they like.

When asked whether they get annoyed at drivers who are slow to pull away, the respondents were largely split on the issue. Just over half (54 percent) said they don’t get frustrated, whereas the remaining 46 percent said they would get hacked off.

Traffic light trails through city at night in Bristol England

Men are more likely to be frustrated by drivers who are slow to react, with 50 percent saying they would get annoyed, compared with 41 percent of women. And young men are even more likely to get annoyed, with 64 percent of 17-24-year-old males saying they would get riled by a car that’s slow to pull away.

But the study’s findings suggest this is about more than just a bit of road rage. Almost half (44 percent) of respondents said they had been kept waiting at a green light for more than 15 seconds by an inattentive driver, while almost two-thirds (64 percent) have had to wait more than 10 seconds. Similarly, 17 percent of drivers said they regularly fail to get through a set of lights due to slow-moving drivers in front, while 75 percent said this happens occasionally.

Traffic lights in the centre of London at night

Almost a third (17%) say they regularly don’t manage to get through a set of traffic lights due to drivers in front being too slow to move off. Seventy-five per cent say this happens to them occasionally.

Drivers suspect inattentiveness is the main reason for drivers moving away slowly, with 72 percent saying the culprits just don’t pay attention. However, 40 percent blame the issue on drivers who are illegally checking their handheld mobile phones.

“While three seconds is obviously a very short time, anything longer than this can start to seem like an eternity when you desperately want to get through a set of traffic lights and the person in front is taking forever to get going,” said RAC spokesman Simon Williams. “When you think that some lights only stay green for 15 seconds, this severely limits the number of vehicles that can get through before red comes up again, and this in turn makes jams – and potentially even air pollution – worse.

“The fact this is such a common issue means that too many drivers – for whatever reasons – clearly aren’t paying enough attention to what’s going around them when they’re stationary at traffic lights. While our findings back up the old saying about the ‘impatience of youth’, it’s also the case that more drivers need to pay attention to the lights and not use the time to daydream or worse to check their handheld phones illegally. Just being ready to go could save others lots of time at the wheel, not to mention keeping some drivers’ blood pressure down.”

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