Short Yellow Lights Mean More Tickets, Money For Cities

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southwestforests
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06 Jan 2010, 1:14 am

http://autos.aol.com/article/short-yellow-lights-revenue

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Short Yellow Lights Mean More Tickets, Money For Cities
Texas Town Shortens Yellows, Boosts Revenues


Recent studies of the effects and usage of red light cameras at intersections in Texas brought the website The Newspaper to the same conclusion that many motorists have: it's about revenue.

First let's look at some numbers: according to the NHTSA there were 34,017 fatal crashes in 2008, with 11,179 of them - and more than 800,000 injuries - attributed to speeding. Most of those fatalities occurred somewhere other than the Interstate, where the speed limit was under 55 miles per hour. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 260,000 "vehicle incidents" from people running red lights, resulting in almost 900 deaths.

That's 11,179 deaths vs. 900 deaths. In 2006, when traffic fatalities were higher, speeding was deemed the number one cause of death for people ages four to 34.

Yet the IIHS reports that as of December, 2009 only 52 communities use speed cameras. The number of communities that use red light cameras: 442. Almost nine times as many cities employ red light cameras for the stated goal of increasing safety even though speeding appears to be far more deadly.

The problematic issue with red light cameras brings up the same word that describes the problem with speed cameras: "trap." In the case of Texas, short yellow light times have been found to make it more likely someone will enter the intersection after the red begins to glow - and therefore make it easier to issue ticket.

In one case the length of a yellow light in El Paso was shortened by just a four-tenths of a second and citations jumped by 132%. In another case, a yellow light at a 45-mph intersection in Houston that lasted 3.6 seconds rang up 341% more tickets than the yellow lights at other, similar 45-mph intersections.

Opponents of the red light cameras point to the fact that the duration of yellow lights in these scenarios is often less than the minimum durations proposed by national and state traffic engineering bodies. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has a formula for determining how long a yellow light should stay illuminated, but intersections boasting red light cameras rarely follow those informal guidelines.

In 2003, a study by two researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute published a study that resulted in these findings: "(1) an increase of 0.5 to 1.5 s in yellow duration (such that it does not exceed 5.5 s) will decrease the frequency of red-light-running by at least 50 percent; (2) drivers do adapt to the increase in yellow duration; however, this adaptation does not undo the benefit of an increase in yellow duration; and (3) increasing a yellow interval that is shorter than that obtained from a proposed recommended practice published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) is likely to yield the greatest return (in terms of a reduced number of red-light violations) relative to the cost of retiming a yellow interval in the field."

In plainer English: increase the time of a yellow light, reduce the number of accidents. A one-second increase in the yellow light time duration resulted in a 40-percent reduction in crashes and a 53% drop in violations.

Never mind the fact that many red light cameras are not installed at the intersections with the highest accident rates. And never mind the fact that while cameras are said to capture up to 90% of their violations in the first second of a light going red, the large majority of accidents due to people running red lights happens five seconds after a light has turned red.

What makes it easy for to ignore that facts is the huge amounts of money involved. In Coppell, one of those Texas towns studied, one red light camera issued $862,275 in tickets during a 1-year span. That's a healthy addition to the coffers in a town of just 39,000 people. Other, larger cities are known to reap millions from red light camera revenue.

And when it comes to short yellows, statistics and studies will pale in the face of the most important number of all: millions. Given the chance to address a municipal budget - and safety - the length of yellow lights is almost the same as a game of limbo: how low can you go?

http://autos.aol.com/article/short-yellow-lights-revenue


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jrknothead
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06 Jan 2010, 2:37 am

There is a simple way to get out of a camera-issued red light ticket... plead not guilty, and demand to question the witness against you... it is an absolute right of the accused to question the witness, and a camera cannot answer questions... the trial judge may deny you this right, but an appeals court can not... additionally, many states require a police officer to be present to witness the entirety of a violation in the case of a moving violation... usually the person manning the camera is not a police officer, and is never present at the scene, rather he is in a control room somewhere sometimes watching the monitor, but usually not, relying on the photograph snapped by the camera to issue the violation, in which case he has witnessed nothing directly...



Woodpecker
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06 Jan 2010, 3:42 am

I am unsure about the logic of the legal advice offered by jrknothead, but I am not American and I know little about the US legal system.

But I would reason that as an event where a car passes a red light is a dangerous event where an accident resulting in death or injury is likely to occur. Then the yellow phase of the traffic light is a safety feature so it could be argued that the persons responsible for retiming the traffic light could be guilty of a crime of reckless endangerment of the general public or maybe even murder / manslaughter.

My legal reasoning stems from the fact that it is a crime under UK health and safety law for me to tamper with or defeat any safety device, the classic example is to use a fire extinguisher to prop open a fire door. This logic could be extended to argue that tampering with the yellow light on the traffic light is a crime.

Secondly many health and safety laws has the idea of "reasonable care", for arguments sake imagine that no laws containing explicit instructions or prohibitions exist on flammables and explosives. Then imagine that "aspie industries explosives" starts a firework factory where the following occurs.

1. Smoking is allowed in the finished product store
2. Steel drums which have been used to hold gun powder are cut up using an angle grinder and a oxyacetylene torch
3. Workers are allowed to bring electrical heaters with exposed heating elements into the factory in winter

I am sure that you can imagine that the hypothetical fireworks factory will catch fire and blow up from one of the three no brainier sources of ignition which I have chosen to allow in the imaginary factory.

But if the factory management has banned all three activities, and then as a result of a very rare type of flame breathing dragonfly (never seen by humans until 1 week before the accident) flying through an open window into the gunpowder store the factory explodes in a freak accident then it could be argued that all reasonable care had been taken to run the factory in a safe manner as nobody could have forseen the accident.

On the other hand if the dragonfly in question was a well known animal then to be able to argue that "reasonable care" was taken some efforts to exclude the monster insects such as steel nets on the windows of the gun powder store would have needed.

If a professional body has already pointed out that basic requirement is needed for safety reasons and no national law exists which regulates the level required for the standard. Then it will be close to impossible to claim that all reasonable care was taken if the person setting the traffic lights made a choice to disobey or ignore the advice of the professional body. In the same way as a person who ignored the “national explosive professional institutes” advice on how to safely run a firework factory might also be guilty of a crime when his firework factory blows up.


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demeus
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06 Jan 2010, 9:17 am

<soapbox>
The problem with pleading not guilty in the USA is that the Supreme Court has ruled that if the incident resulted in an infraction, most of our constitutional rights do not apply. In many states, you end up in a court ran and paid for by the mayor (who has a financial interest in you being found guilty) where you cannot perform discovery, get a jury, or even have a lawyer paid for if you cannot afford one. It usually becomes your word against the camera/cop and the judge usually takes the word of the plaintiff's witnesses. I saw one case where a lady was given a ticket in Chicago, had hard evidence to prove that she was not in Chicago at the time the ticket was taken, and was still found guilty.

This whole traffic infraction thing is a ripoff to society because it is all about the money, not safety. A couple of years back, a 7 year old girl was struck and killed by a car whose driver was speeding and was not wearing his required glasses/contacts. They could not charge him with manslaughter (requires proof that he knowingly acted in a reckless manner). However, in order to apply the Supreme Court case on infractions, no person is to face more than 3 months in jail for any traffic infraction so this person spent 30 days in jail for the traffic infractions that resulted in the death of this little girl. Had they tried to give him more jail time, an enterprising lawyer would argue that these crimes are now misdemeanors with the resulting constitutional protections.

It does not surprise me that communities are ignoring sound engineering practices in the name of money. They do it all the time for speeding so why not for traffic lights too.
</soapbox>



DeaconBlues
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06 Jan 2010, 11:42 am

Further, since the "witness" is a camera, its photograph is considered its "testimony".

Want to protest this movement? One simple idea, which has always worked for me...

Stop running through the yellow lights!!

I've never gotten a ticket for red-light running, even from the shortest yellow, even from the touchiest camera, because I remembered the part of driver education where they said that the light turning yellow meant that it was about to turn red, and you needed to stop. You should take your driving advice from the state manual, not from the movie Starman ("Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means go very fast").


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demeus
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06 Jan 2010, 12:23 pm

The problem with the above advice is what if the person behind you does not know about the camera and acts as if you are going to not stop? Many studies have found that under the conditions of shorter than engineering practice yellows added to red light cameras results in more rear-end accidents (in this case, it would have been safer to not stop at the yellow/red because that would avoid the accident). I have heard of quite a few road rage incidents caused by someone having the nerve to stop at a yellow light.



ruennsheng
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06 Jan 2010, 10:24 pm

Now like Christopher of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the night time, I hate yellow even more because yellow lights really increase revenues for the fat cats. Yellow is the color of greed.


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DeaconBlues
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07 Jan 2010, 1:03 am

demeus wrote:
The problem with the above advice is what if the person behind you does not know about the camera and acts as if you are going to not stop? Many studies have found that under the conditions of shorter than engineering practice yellows added to red light cameras results in more rear-end accidents (in this case, it would have been safer to not stop at the yellow/red because that would avoid the accident). I have heard of quite a few road rage incidents caused by someone having the nerve to stop at a yellow light.

By this reasoning, one should not stop for the red light, because the person behind one might want to run the red. And one should never under any circumstances obey a posted speed limit, because a lot of people like to speed, and there have even been quite a few road-rage incidents caused by someone having the nerve to to 35 in a 35 zone.

The reasoning is flawed, and can only have been come up with by someone who wants an excuse for violating the clear traffic laws.


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LittleTigger
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18 Jan 2010, 9:51 pm

So it was ok for me to slam
on the brakes at the last second on a yellow
light? I have done it many times so I guess
I am ok.

I don't drive anymore thank goodness.

Too much to remember and almost got
me introuble once.


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leejosepho
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18 Jan 2010, 10:09 pm

DeaconBlues wrote:
Want to protest this movement? One simple idea, which has always worked for me...

Stop running through the yellow lights!!


Yes, and that is so simple!

I do not know how the law actually reads, but in the 1960s I was taught it is against the law to enter the intersection on the yellow light if it is reasonably possible to stop before doing so ... and I have *always* found it impossible to be found in an intersection under a red light as long as I do that.

Worried about being rear-ended? Begin slowing down even before the light turns yellow! Doing the "Stop-and-Go 500" does not really get you anywhere more quickly and is crazy (non-frugal use of fuel and brakes coupled with danger) even if you do *not* get a ticket.


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ruennsheng
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18 Jan 2010, 10:14 pm

LittleTigger wrote:
So it was ok for me to slam
on the brakes at the last second on a yellow
light? I have done it many times so I guess
I am ok.

I don't drive anymore thank goodness.

Too much to remember and almost got
me introuble once.


Sigh. I always wished I am the driver. But I have sensory overload... Sigh! :(


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ADoyle
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19 Jan 2010, 3:19 am

One other thing I've noticed is that if people are aware of a red light camera, many do stop when the light is yellow, and often, the result is that traffic backs up for about a block or more when there's a lot of traffic. I avoid being rear-ended by slowing down slightly at each intersection in case it turns yellow or red before I get there. If it annoys someone, they can just go around me and get that ticket from the red light camera in the mail.

Some cities where I am are now considering adding something to those red light cameras that records the speed of the vehicle, as often, those who run red lights are going at speeds which usually get them tickets anyway. Only instead of being pulled over, the person will get the ticket in the mail.


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19 Jan 2010, 11:38 pm

Here is another problem. Intersections without red and green turning arrows.

You are first in line at the lights and you want to turn right in England or left in America.
You can't turn because of the oncoming traffic so you edge out into the intersection and wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic but there isn't a gap so you floor it on the yellow or even the red.

You just got a ticket.

What if you had been "honest" and waited?
The lights change and you are still sitting there.
The lights change again and you are still sitting there.

Sooner or later either the cops will come along and give you a ticket for obstructing traffic or the hundreds of motorists banked up behind you will pull you out of your car and thump you.



LittleTigger
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19 Jan 2010, 11:45 pm

I wood just go strait, I dont take turns without
an arrow


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ruennsheng
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20 Jan 2010, 2:33 am

^I agree. If we get speeding tickets, that would be unfortunate of us... Sigh.


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