Another City Caught Lowering Yellow Light Times To Catch More Red Light Runners

from the yet-again dept

It’s been shown repeatedly that redlight cameras don’t appear to make intersections any safer, but they do act as a nice revenue generator for cities. In fact, at times it’s such a tempting revenue generator that city officials cannot resist the urge to tamper with the timing of the lights to get more people running “red” lights that really should have been yellow. The latest such case, as pointed out by Jeff Nolan, happened in Arizona. According to regulations, the yellow light at a certain intersection was required to last 4.3 seconds: 4 seconds for the road being 40 mph and another 0.3 seconds due to the way the road curves. Yet, over 1,000 motorists were ticketed, in part because the traffic light had been adjusted so that the yellow light only lasted 3 seconds, 70% of the required length. Thanks to some enterprising motorists who timed the light and complained, those who were caught are getting back their money and having the citations removed from their record.

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Comments on “Another City Caught Lowering Yellow Light Times To Catch More Red Light Runners”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“Thanks to some enterprising motorists who timed the light and complained, those who were caught are getting back their money and having the citations removed from their record.”

Great, now how about we go absolutely crazy and actually indict these assclown government officials responsible for this. But that won’t happen, because we can’t actually hold government reps accountible in Amerika, now can we?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The idea is that if you can stop safely for the yellow, you’re supposed to. So you’re following the spirit of the law; good for you.

If you can *safely* stop for a yellow… But now, with all the red-light cameras, I just jack on the brakes as hard as I need to, to stop. if someone rear-ends me, it’s on them I guess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The idea behind a yellow light is that it warns you before it turns red so that you can stop. If the yellow light only flashes for a fraction of a second and then it turns red, that defeats the whole purpose of its existence. To give cities an incentive to cheat citizens by placing cameras everywhere is dangerous at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What we need is a system that not only proves the person ran a red light, but it also must prove that the light was yellow for a reasonable period of time. If it can’t prove that then they should have no right to sue. Perhaps a video camera showing the person crossing the red light and showing how long the light was yellow before hand. Of course we need a way to verify the camera isn’t being played faster than it should be somehow. A clock, with a second hand/meter, telling the time within the view of the camera might help (by time I mean time of day, like 3:30PM and 42 seconds)? Then at least average citizens could verify the validity of the clock? I still see possible potential for corruption but at least this makes it so much more difficult.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The thing is that people generally try to avoid accidents. If you put cameras everywhere some of the effort that normally goes into avoiding accidents will go into avoiding tickets instead, perhaps even if doing something to avoid a ticket is slightly more dangerous than doing something else. Sure, one can argue, “but I can take it to court and explain to the judge that I did this because I thought it was the safest thing to do” but there are two problems with that. A: they know the judge may not believe them (which may deter them from performing the safest move) and B: even if they think the judge would believe them they probably still don’t want to waste time hassling our court system.

In effect, one may calculate “while move A is more dangerous than move B, it’s only SLIGHTLY more dangerous and the potential risks are only slightly more. When considering the risks and potential cost of getting a ticket by doing a safer move compared to the risks and costs of getting into an accident by doing an only slightly less safe move, I’ll do the less safe move.” When driving peoples entire focus should be on safety, not avoiding frivolous tickets.

Brian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: But

It’s goofy actually, if you get ticketed by a redlight camera it’s a citation, not a moving violation. That’s how they get around the face your accuser thing. Running a red light and getting caught by a cop is akin to a speeding ticket… whereas running a red light and getting caught by a camera is more like a parking ticket.

Stupid crap, eh?

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:4 But

“How long before the insurance companies change that?”

They don’t get to. If they could, they would have done so long ago. Those types of decisions are made by the state department of insurance, who is generally NOT a friend of insurance companies. If an insurance company tries to screw you, threaten to call the State Insurance Commissioner. They’ll come around pretty quickly if they are doing anything even remotely unethical.

Ryan (profile) says:

With or without cameras

My city has done this for years, and we don’t have red light cameras.

Every light in the city is timed so that if you leave a red light from a stopped position, and drive normally, you’re going to get to the next light just in time to make a tough decision between stopping early or accelerating for a few feet to go through the yellow light.

The 1/2 mile stretch of “downtown” contains 4 traffic lights, and motorists get stopped at all of them.

The city engineers specifically set them up so that cops could write red light and speeding tickets.

Allen Park, MI is one giant speed trap.

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Re: With or without cameras

They are almost certainly in violation of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which is the Federal DoT’s guidelines for how these things are supposed to be setup. Every state has their own official version derived from it and courts will throw out tickets that are based on non-conforming devices.

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: With or without cameras

Apparently you’ve never tried. I’ve had at at least 3 tickets thrown out in the last 10 years using this and I know of a further 3 people in 3 other states that have done the same.

Not only that, but that particularly defense was explained to me by an attorney that does ONLY traffic cases….

So, unless you have actual experience to the contrary, I would say that it works quite well…


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 With or without cameras

Apparently you’ve never tried.

Wow, now you’re claiming to even know where I live and what the courts here do?

So, unless you have actual experience to the contrary, I would say that it works quite well…

Motorcycle cops in pairs around here have even been known to go so far as to open up the traffic light control box and put the thing in manual mode. Then, just as someone approaches the light, one cop switches it from green to yellow for about half a second and then to red. No way to stop. The other cop then runs the victim down and gives them the ticket. I’ve seen them running this little trap and known people who were caught in it. When they complained in court, the Judge pointed out that the law had no requirement for a yellow light of any specific length and found them guilty.

Now I allowed that things might work like you said in some places, but if you’re claiming they do around here then I’m calling you a liar. Or maybe you’re just stupid enough to think the whole would is the same as where ever you happen to live.

Rob (profile) says:


This definitely should result in jail time for whoever is tampering with the lights, if for no other reason that to give these clowns incentive to not do it other places, right now if all they have to do when caught is say OOPS!! and then give the money back, there is no reason for them to not try it everywhere and ride the gravy train as long as they can. They need to be held accountable so that others in the future know that this sort of behavior is not acceptable. Not only is this obnoxious, it is a huge public safety issue. If the light in the other direction is turning green at the same time as one light turning red, and people are getting a second less time at the yellow than they are expecting, this definitely opens up the possibility of MORE crashes, exactly the opposite of the intention of the law. It is amazing that these folks can sleep at night.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Whenever I approach an intersection know has cameras (or if it’s one I’m not yet aware of and think it might have cameras) I slow down like crazy so I can stop at a yellow light.

So some people speed like crazy, others slow down like crazy. Call me crazy but I think that it’s generally safest to have everyone going at about the same speed. If some people are going real fast and others are going real slow this seems dangerous. With your fast speed and my slow speed you’re likely to hit me from behind.

Mike (profile) says:


The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, as I understand it, is as other traffic design manuals (Highway Capacity Manual, the “Green Book” of highway design) are–merely ‘guidance’ rather than law-bound scripture. The way it works in court is that if the manual was not adhered to, there’d better be a DAMN good reason why. In some cases I can see where these would play…going slightly below the minimum length for a curve because of some constraints but showing some empirical evidence that what you designed wasn’t inherently unsafe, for example.

But this is hardly a good reason to shorten an amber time, which is provided for motorists’ and pedestrians’ safety at an intersection. I agree that whoever pulled this stunt should be indicted.

Anonymous Coward says:

3 second Yellow Turn Light violation

Help! Scottsdale is at it again. If a thousand tickets were recinded because of shortened yellow lights, why has it not changed. I received a ‘notification of violation’ for supposedly running a red light. We did research in the 40 mph with a stop watch and a video camera and found that the yellow turn light was less than 3 seconds. It sounds like the City should be getting the ‘notification of violation’. I had never driven this area before and was unaware of the snares set in this city. My associates told me of the previous complaints of the citizens or I would be totally unaware of the previous legal action taken. Who can help me? This city should be held accountable. I am a tourist and don’t want to come back to this city. Mad Tourist

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