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Shorter yellow lights mean more red-light revenue

Careful, that yellow light might not last as long as you expect it to.

So you’re driving home from Grandmother’s house. When, bam! You hit a yellow light. Before you know it, the light’s turned red. And you’ve gotten a ticket.

The National Motorists Association says cities are trimming the timing on yellow lights so they skip right to red.

John Bowman, the association’s spokesman, says, “It’s a rigged system and they’re doing it to increase their camera revenues.”

He points out, for example, that all of Chicago’s yellow lights last three seconds -- even where traffic is going more than 40 miles an hour. Bowman says the city earns more than $70 million a year from red light cameras.

But state and local governments say the cameras’ primary purpose is traffic safety.

"The notion by some that there’s some sort of devious conspiracy when communities put cameras into place really isn’t true," says Jonathan Adkins with the Governors Highway Safety Association.    

There is no federal referee in this debate. Local governments decide how long their yellow lights should be. The Federal Highway Administration only issues guidelines that they should last three to six seconds. 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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The GHSA is a lobbying organization that seeks more ticket revenue for cities and states. It is NOT a safety-maximizing organization that seeks minimum violations of traffic laws and maximized safety.

IF the GHSA actually cared about safety, which they do NOT, the organization would insist that every engineering factor be completed before a ticket camera system could possibly be installed. First, posted speed limits would be required to be set at the safety-optimum 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions. Next, the yellow intervals would be required to be at least long enough for the actual 85th percentile approach speeds. Last, governments would not be allowed to ticket safe slow-rolling right on red turns with cameras.
With these three conditions, the ticket camera industry would go bankrupt and all the existing speed and red light camera cash registers would be removed as both money losers and cameras that were worthless for any safety purpose.
BUT the GHSA promotes predatory ticket camera cash registers for their real purpose which is $$$$$$$$$$$$$, at the expense of lower safety.
It is another case of "follow the money trail" to find the real purpose of GHSA.
James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

State law may specify minimum yellow light timing.
California Vehicle Code points to Department of Transportation policy, which specifies
3.0 seconds at 25 mph, to 5.8 seconds at 65 MPH. Of course if you are speeding,
you may get a $500 ticket for red light camera violation , or worse

The GHSA is FULL OF IT! POLICE OFFICERS HAVE BEEN BUSTED PRESSURING ENGINEERS TO LOWER AMBERS!

EXAMPLE!

THE GHSA is FULL OF IT! (BESIDES handing "awards" to KNOWN SCAMERA VENDOR FRONT GROUPS: www.thenewspaper.com/news/36/3605.asp)

THERE IS AMPLE EVIDENCE OF CITY OFFICIALS PRESSURING ENGINEERS to SHORTEN AMBERS!

EXAMPLE: www.thenewspaper.com/news/39/3902.asp

Quote: "The city has been so focused on revenue that the police department officials who manage the contract with Redflex became irate when city engineers decided early on to add a second to the duration of yellow signal timing at the photo enforced intersections. The change produced immediate, positive results.

"As a result of an adjustment made in the yellow-light duration period at most of the red light camera enforcement system locations, revenues have decreased," an April 27, 2010 memo from the Oakland Police Department to the city administrator explained. "Prior to this adjustment and after the installation of the system, yellow lights were set at three to four seconds. This change in the yellow light timing has resulted in a reduction of approximately 40 citations per day. The Transportation Services Division (TSD) and OPD are continuing discussions of the impact of this change, and possible solutions."

The daily reduction of 40 violations represented the potential for millions in lost revenue -- a problem requiring a "solution." Excluding cameras that had not been fully operational prior to the timing change, the total number of violations immediately went down 56 percent with the longer yellows. This infuriated Oakland Police Lieutenant Anthony Banks Sr, who was in charge of working with the program vendor.

"What is the reason for the increase in the timing phase?" Banks fumed in a January 12, 2010 email to the Transportation Services Division manager Wlad Wlassowsky. "What needs to be done to have them changed back? This will obviously have an effect on the program that will require an explanation at the next report in April."

Banks cited the table in California's Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which presents the minimum accepted yellow time values, and argued it was inappropriate for Oakland to exceed these values. He argued the new signal settings upset the projections for the number of violations Redflex established when selecting intersections for camera enforcement.

"Based on your table you are accommodating speeds of 57 MPH on Northgate, 61 MPH on San Leandro and 55 MPH on Redwood just to name a few," Banks wrote in a January 20, 2010 email to Wlassowsky and city engineer Ade Oluwasogo. "Unless I am reading it wrong. This is in opposition to the posted 30 MPH speed limits. The reprogramming of these signals is especially discouraging since our surveys and intersection selections were based on the timing TSD had set previously, which was already higher than MUTCD."

A number of meetings were held and the engineers gave in to the pressure, agreeing to shorten the yellows."

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