NMA Article: 6 Cities That Were Caught Shortening Yellow Light Times For Profit
Short yellow light times at intersections have been shown to increase the number of traffic violations and accidents. Conversely, increasing the yellow light duration can dramatically reduce red-light violations at an intersection.
Some local governments have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.
Here are some of the cities that have been caught with short yellow light times over the past few years:
Important note: These news stories were collected from the archives of TheNewspaper.com, an excellent resource for anyone interested in traffic laws and other motorist issues. If you subscribe to TheNewspaper.com’s feed, you’ll never miss the latest news. It makes an excellent complement to this blog.
1) Chattanooga, Tennessee
The city of Chattanooga was forced refund $8800 in red light cameras tickets issued to motorists trapped by an illegally short yellow time. The refund only occurred after a motorist challenged his citation by insisting that the yellow light time of 3.0 seconds was too short. LaserCraft, the private vendor that runs the camera program in return for a cut of the profits, provided the judge with a computer database that asserted the yellow was 3.8 seconds at that location.
The judge then personally checked the intersection in question was timed at three seconds while other nearby locations had about four seconds of yellow warning. City traffic engineer John Van Winkle told Bean that “a mix up with the turn arrow” was responsible and that the bare minimum for the light should be 3.9 seconds.
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2) Dallas, Texas
An investigation by KDFW-TV, a local TV station, found that of the ten cameras that issued the greatest number of tickets in the city, seven were located at intersections where the yellow duration is shorter than the bare minimum recommended by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
The city’s second highest revenue producing camera, for example, was located at the intersection of Greenville Avenue and Mockingbird Lane. It issued 9407 tickets worth $705,525 between January 1 and August 31, 2007. At the intersections on Greenville Avenue leading up to the camera intersection, however, yellows are at least 3.5 or 4.0 seconds in duration, but the ticket-producing intersection’s yellow stands at just 3.15 seconds. That is 0.35 seconds shorter than TxDOT’s recommended bare minimum. Dallas likewise installed the cameras at locations with existing short yellow times. A total of twenty-one camera intersections in Dallas had yellow times below TxDOT’s bare minimum recommended amount.
The ticket camera program in Dallas made the news recently for shutting down some of its cameras because they were no longer profitable.
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3) Springfield, Missouri
The city of Springfield, Missouri prepared for the installation of a red light camera system in 2007 by slashing the yellow warning time by one second at 105 state-owned intersection signals across the city.
© 2008 NMA