Cities Upset That Increasing Yellow Light Time Length Reduces 'Revenue'

from the safety-first? dept

With the news that Mississippi has passed a law banning traffic light cameras because it’s an invasion of privacy, it’s worth looking a bit to the east, where some cities in Georgia are taking down their red light cameras not because of privacy issues, but because a new law required them to increase the length of time that a light is yellow by one second — and that’s decreased red light violations so significantly, that red light cameras have become “too expensive” (thanks to Scott Cauthen for sending that story in). This is what critics of red light cameras have said from the beginning: it’s always been about the revenue, rather than the safety. If you want safety, all you need to do is increase the length of yellow lights, and you have fewer people running red lights and significantly fewer accidents. But… if revenue is your goal, then you do things like decrease the yellow light timing — which is what a few cities have been caught doing.

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Comments on “Cities Upset That Increasing Yellow Light Time Length Reduces 'Revenue'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Also . . .

Signaling in Michigan often includes a second where all parts of the intersection are red after a yellow light.

I’m not sure how much that’s reduced collision, but it keeps people from gunning it into the intersection when they see the other side turn red (and the last of those trying to beat the light race through).

Pixelpusher220 says:

Re: Also . . .

Michigan lights and driver habits…

Both my parents grew up in Detroit, so having been there frequently I can say that ‘red-light’ running is a bit vague. The general habit was always, stop on yellow and hit the gas just after it turned red.

That extra ‘all red’ second may be because people were jumping the red’s…

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Yup, in theory, if you make the yellow long enough, nobody will cross on the red – just leave the yellow on!

Serious, when you lengthen yellow lights, there is a period of time where people are use to the shorter ones and won’t run at them. When they know it’s longer, they will be right back to running them.

The real issue was the places that shortened the yellow when the installed the red light cams specifically to catch more people. That really sucked.

Pixelpusher220 says:

Re: Re:

you hit the nail on the head. it takes time for drivers to change habits when new rules aren’t followed with new training classes.

expecting instant red-light camera obedience is crazy. The people who claim that because accidents go *up* after the cameras are installed the cameras are fatally flawed and must be removed are the most short sighted hypocrits.

Of course accidents go up, but eventually the number and severity of accidents will go down.

This just takes time.

Nathan says:

Re: Yup, leave them yellow.

Yeah, I remember seeing a video or something, I don’t remember where. Some town in Europe, I think the Netherlands, did away with all traffic lights/signage, except for informational things like street signs.

Anyway, this apparently forced drivers to pay more attention and be responsible for their own safety and accidents decreased greatly. I’m not sure how feasible this might be on a larger scale, but it is interesting at the very least.

Tgeigs says:

This is what happens

…when government gets too big. I’m not talking Republican/Democrat big government here, I’m talking simply about numbers of constituents. When federal and state governments (which I’m assuming are the level at which these Dept. of Tran. decisions are made) don’t actually have to answer to their constituents in a relatively face to face manner, we all become dollar signs instead of people. Its the reason that Presidents can order us to go to war w/o the effect on their conscious that they probably ought to have: when you don’t SEE the people who are DYING, they just become pieces on a Risk boardgame.

I’m not sure how to fix this, beyond the broad idea of filtering more responsibility to County and City governments, but this just seems to be a trend I’m seeing.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Should lengthen them by a second for about a month and then cut back on that one second and kind of mix it up so people can’t really get used to it anymore

brilliant! or better yet, have a minimum of say 7 seconds, followed by an random number between .01 and 10.0 seconds. that way every yellow light at ever intersection is different every time.

i don’t know if it will make things safer, but it would be a lot of fun to watch the mathematicians and the gambling addicts drive around the block again and again and again.

Chris says:


There are some intersections (rare in most parts) where there is simply a countdown clock that shows on the side that people look at when walking across the crosswalk…If we actually put these in intersections people would have a much better idea of how much time they have to either slow down or speed up. IMO this is FAR safer, however some will argue that it will cause more people to “speed”, but I don’t really think it will, as people are much more likely to act rationally and safely if they know what state the light system is in as they approach, rather than the dumbed down Green-Yellow-Red system that catches you off-guard depending on the yellow-light timing at THAT particular intersection.

Then again, we’d have fewer people running red lights so there’d be less revenue from that, so I’m sure we’d end up paying more for other violations or property taxes, etc…

bulljustin (profile) says:

Re: Traffic circles!

Really, traffic circles? Ever try to get out of one of those during rush hour? Just because traffic is moving doesn’t mean that it’s more efficient IF vehicles have to circle two or three times to get where they can safely exit the circle. The only way traffic circles work in high traffic situations is if the traffic influx can be regulated, which requires stop lights, which negates the benefits of a traffic circle.

Ryan says:

Re: Traffic circles!

Thats ridiculous. Im in MA and theres a nearby town that people avoid from 3 to 7pm because of the trafic. try 7 roads hitting eachother at the same spot.

Anyways, I think that there are a lot of lights/stop signs that are uneeded. I really dont like bringing my 3500lb vehicle to a stop and then getting it moving again in the middle of the woods when there is no one there, kinda a waste of gas I think. Yield signs would be much easier

Anonymous Coward says:

Redlight Cameras Devalue City Civil Planners Work

It used to be that intersections with abnormally high accident rates were scrutinized by city planners, who in turn came up with REAL ways to mitigate accidents. Their suggestions may have included lengthened yellow lights, speed controls, changes to speed limits or re-engineering of the intersection.

This was generally accepted practice of the trade. Now, cash-strapped city governments seem to have replaced some of these jobs, which were in a way, an overhead expense, with Red Light Cameras which are cash-positive revenue-generating.

It’s not surprising that there is and will be much debate over Red-Light Cameras: They generate revenue and don’t speak up to the real issues, which may include an overhaul of the design to an intersection… Which could be a costly budget item.

Tim Schmidt says:

Pricey tickets

I left a Car Pool lane at the wrong spot and was hit with a $450 ticket in December. It’s cheaper to get caught driving solo with a mannequin…which is $281.

Instead of focusing on red lights, just raise the fine on all tickets across the board.

I’ll never leave the car pool lane again after that hit to my wallet. And I believe red light tickets are cheaper, but WAY more deadly, that my manuever.

Pixelpusher220 says:

Re: Pricey tickets

I left a Car Pool lane at the wrong spot and was hit with a $450 ticket in December. It’s cheaper to get caught driving solo with a mannequin…which is $281.

so you’re upset that you got caught breaking the law? and that you’d just break it in a cheaper way next time?

The focus on red light running is that it has very serious consequences when it goes bad. Carpool cheats generally just slow things down rather than inflict serious bodily injury…

nasch says:

Re: Re: Pricey tickets

We don’t know exactly what this situation was. Maybe he swerved across solid white cross-hatching and cut someone off. But if he just exited a lane across a solid line instead of at the dashed line where he was supposed to, in an otherwise safe manner, does a $450 fine make any sense?

It’s perfectly appropriate to point out disproportionate punishments, and does not necessarily have anything to do with being upset about getting caught.

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