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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Beefcake, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Safety Win

    Putting motorists' and pedestrians' safety at risk for revenue purposes is a sickening and disgusting practice.

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 9:22am

    Uh...

    "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?

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 9:30am

    I've almost reached the point where I often stop at a yellow light just as if it were a red light. This nonsense is making me paranoid. If it's yellow, it might as well be red so I stop. I don't care if the cars behind me honk either.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Doug B (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:02am

    But

    Will the city also refund the money that these motorists' insurance companies inevitably charged them due to the citations being on their record?

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    A Dan, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:04am

    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.

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:07am

    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.

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    Verve (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: But

    Will the city also refund the money that these motorists' insurance companies inevitably charged them due to the citations being on their record? I thought insurance companyes couldn't tag you for that since it's not a moving violation - as you can't 'face your accuser" in court.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:26am

    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.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:29am

    If the insurance companies can rate you based on your driving record, as a whole, your race, the state/city you live in, your credit, your education level, then they can seemingly do what they want.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Gyroc, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:37am

    they get their money back and points removed as if nothing happened woo EEE! The city should get sued for that kind of stuff

     

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

  11.  
    icon
    GregD (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: But

    What city do you live in that running a red light is not a moving violation?

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    Brian (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:43am

    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?

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    Verve (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: But

    And thus... insurance companies - from what I understand - can't raise your rates for citations... only moving violations.

     

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

  14.  
    icon
    Rosedale (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Insurance?

    I bet you insurance companies won't forget the ticket that easily. I would like to know if the city is handling that?

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    Chris Maresca (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    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.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Lights in Phoenix

    In Phoenix AZ on Union Hills Road some of the lights only have a 2.?? sec delay.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re:

    That assumes that the law actually says anything about a solid amber light. Some laws are quiet about a solid amber light.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: With or without cameras

    ...courts will throw out tickets that are based on non-conforming devices.

    I guess some might, somewhere, but not around anywhere I've ever lived.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    SRS2000, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 11:39am

    They need to be charged with negligent homicide if anyone died in a crash there.

    If ANYONE else did it.. They would be in jail. They might even be charged as a terrorist.

    Because you are an executive or public official does not give you the right to do what you want.

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: But

    ...for now.

    How long before the insurance companies change that?

    Heck, I'll bet the credit card companies try to jack up your interest rates, and drop your FICO score for camera viloations. That's the irrational direction we're going with "universal default".

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 11:59am

    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.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:03pm

    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.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    sp/If it can't prove that then they should have no right to sue./If it can't prove that then they should have no right to collect on a ticket (or to put it on your record).

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Rob, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Unreal

    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.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    Citizen of the Republic, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Uh...

    Right on!

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    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.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    BTW, I'm not saying these cameras are a bad idea. I think they can be good on some intersections but the city must be required to PROVE within reason that the light was yellow for a long enough period of time at the time the person got the ticket.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Rabbit, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: But

    Well, in Va, it is the same as getting a parking ticket. Since they can't prove who was driving the vehicle, the ticket isn't issued to a person, but rather to the vehicle that was breaking the law (in other words, the vehicles registered owner). Therefore, no points, no record, just a fine.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    At any intersection where my GPS warns me of a red light camera, I stomp on the accelerator and get through the damn light as quick as I possibly can rather than risk a ticket from a shortened yellow light.

    Many people do this.

    Do you think it makes the intersection safer?

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 1:46pm

    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.

     

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

  31.  
    icon
    Chris Maresca (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    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...

    Chris.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Mike, Jul 3rd, 2009 @ 11:33am

    MUTCD

    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.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jul 6th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

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

  35.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 9th, 2009 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: But

    A watchdog that's watching? How rare and delightful.

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 8:46am

    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

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Ed, Aug 5th, 2009 @ 5:28am

    Re: With or without cameras

    Ha, I was reading that thinking "Is this guy talking about Allen Park, nah what are the.. holy crap he is!"

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    sandy moore, Jan 21st, 2010 @ 2:03pm

    shortening yellow lights in Tyler Tx

    I have video of yellow lights that are under DOT standards form as low as 2.3 to 2.9 I got a ticket at the 2.9 location. I am going to court in March, trail by jury. If you have any more imformation on yellow lights, I would like to hear back from you. Thank you

     

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


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