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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    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).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Dave, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 6:09am

      Re: Also . . .

      In Ontario, there's 3 seconds between red one way and green on the other. People constantly run red lights now. So much so that Red light cameras were brought in.

      People ignore yellows much of the time, as they know that they have time once the red lights are on.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Pixelpusher220, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 10:04am

      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...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Wonder what happens...

    when people become accustomed to the longer yellow light.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      bulljustin, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 4:30pm

      Re: Wonder what happens...

      That's what I was going to say. Once people get used to the longer yellow light there will be more red light runners leading to a call for more red light traffic cams.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:19pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Weird Harolds #2 Fan, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:33pm

      Re:

      Lead us!

      Free us from thought and responsibility!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 6:05pm

      Re:

      Yes, there are bad people out there ... and some of them run red lights, but screwing over everyone else does nothing tofix that problem.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Pixelpusher220, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 11:10am

      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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        BTR1701, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

        Re: Re: Eggs

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

        Ah, the old "you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelot" argument. I guess you just gotta hope you or your family don't have the bad luck to be one of the eggs.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Me, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:22pm

    Amber

    It's amber dammit, amber!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    Yup, leave them yellow.

    I agree, leave them yellow all the time, in all directions.

    There have been studies showing that having no traffic signals (or stop signs) at all actually decreases accidents.

    Google it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tgeigs, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:34pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      chris (profile), Mar 25th, 2009 @ 7:23am

      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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:48pm

    A government large enough to provide for all your needs is large enough to take deprive you of everything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tgeigs, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Anonymous Coward

    Then maybe it's high time we redefined our needs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 4:25pm

      Re: Anonymous Coward

      maybe it's time we understood the difference between "needs" and "wants"...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Ron, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 4:30pm

        Re: Re: Anonymous Coward

        You mean as in:
        We "need" the money but we don't really "want" you to die - please be safe enough to survive so you can repeatedly pay the fine because we shortened the yellow light for maximum profitability!

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Levente Orban, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    increasing yellow light length

    It would be useful to know more about the effects of increased yellow light length. Would people eventually habituate or learn the new timing of the yellow light? If yes, the number of red-runs might return to pre-change levels...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Chris, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Solution

    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...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ron, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

    Traffic circles!

    Skip the reds, yellows and greens; install traffic circles and keep traffic moving at all times in all directions. It works in other countries. However, like the metric system, we in the US, believe our way is always the best even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      bulljustin, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 4:37pm

      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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Ryan, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

      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

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tim Schmidt, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Thomas, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    More into revenue

    Sadly, too many cities are more interested in the revenue from red light cameras than preventing accidents. If shortening the timing on yellow leads to a 25% increase in tickets PLUS a 20% increase in accidents, do you really belive they would care about the accidents? They just blame them on stupid drivers and rake in the cash.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This