Florida's Redlight Program Designed To Make Driving More Dangerous By Shortening Yellow Lights
from the putting-lives-in-danger dept
For years, we’ve been critics of red light cameras, which have been shown time and time again to actually increase accidents rather than decrease them — which you would think should be the goal. Of course, we all know that’s not really the goal. The goal has always been revenue generation for cities. If they actually wanted to increase safety there’s a very simple way to do it: you increase the timing of yellow lights (and for the places, like where I live, that don’t have an interval between when one direction turns red and the other turns green, you add that brief interval where all directions are red). Do that, and you increase safety and decrease accidents. And it’s incredibly easy and cheap to do.
But, of course, various governments hate that idea, because it would decrease the massive revenue from red light camera fines. That’s why over and over and over again, we see that various governments are caught redhanded lowering the time for yellow lights. Make no mistake about it: this increases the danger, and puts many more people at risk. Stupidly, it probably also could end up costing the city more in terms of having to respond to more accidents and deal with more injuries. But, boy, I’m sure it pumps up the revenue on red light camera violations.
The latest example of this comes via Darby Keene, who points out that the Florida Department of Transportation quietly tweaked its own standards for yellow light intervals in 2011, allowing them to be shorter without breaking the law (after many cities have been caught violating official standards). And, of course, various cities quickly did lower the interval timing. Yes, revenue at the expense of public safety. Research has shown that reducing the time of a yellow light by a mere half a second can double the number of red light camera citations — and in some cases, the changes to FDOT’s regulations meant cities reduced the length of a yellow light by an entire second. Smell that? It’s the smell of revenue for cities, intermingled with wrecked cars and destroyed lives!
Even worse: while FDOT is claiming that it changed its regulations to clean up some wording, and not because of potential revenue, the report from WTSP, also found emails from FDOT engineers telling local government officials to lower their yellow light intervals to the absolute minimums allowed. That is, they weren’t even saying it was just an option, they were being told to decrease the timing to make the intersection less safe, but more profitable.
And, while FDOT defended the whole thing claiming that they changed the policies to “match federal guidelines,” the report explains that federal guidelines actually recommend longer yellow light times, just as we discussed above.
A USDOT/Federal Highway Administration (FHA) report said cities should not use speed limit in the yellow interval equation because it results “in more red light violations and higher crash rates.” And if drivers’ average speeds cannot be calculated, it’s recommended engineers use the “speed limit plus 10 mph” variable to producing more conservative, and safer, yellow intervals.
Another report stresses the importance of using 85th percentile speed to calculate yellow intervals, while slide 28 on this report indicates when yellow light times are lengthened, severe crashes drop.
USDOT also recommends an extra half-second of yellow time at intersections with lots of trucks or elderly drivers to allow them to react safely. And despite the fact that Greater Tampa Bay is home to five of the nation’s 12 oldest counties (by median age), it’s also home to some of the shortest yellow lights.
Don’t you feel safer now?