Longer Yellow Lights = Shorter Green Lights?

May 31, 2008

Recently it was suggested in the local newspaper that adding additional time to yellow lights will cause the green light cycle to be shorter:

Bernie Hillermann, committee member, asked Wagner to look at extending the length of the yellow lights at the intersection. “Four seconds is not long enough,” he said.

Wagner said the duration of the lights is based on various factors, including the size of the intersection. The timing and duration of signals are set by engineers to optimize the movement of traffic through an intersection, she explained.

Increasing the duration of the yellow light would take time away from the green light, which means fewer vehicles could get through the intersection on the green light, she noted. “That’s part of the problem,” Stratman remarked. “Everyone thinks they are a traffic engineer. They think they know the solution.”

Is it a “problem” when pillars of the community, such as Mr. Hillermann, makes a reasonable suggestion regarding lengthening the duration of yellow lights? And to the casual observer, it sounds rather elitist chunking verbal barbs at intelligent people for simply making rational suggestions.

Probably it wasn’t intentional, but the quote taken from Mrs. Wagner left the idea with many readers, that you lose green when you add yellow.

You can add a second to a yellow light and keep the green light timed at the original length. Fact. Where you do lose green is in total cycles. Say there are 1000 green, yellow, red cycles in a 12 hour period. Because you took more yellow may result in fewer cycles, maybe 950 instead of the original 1000. All of which would be transparent to the driver and have virtually zero input on through-put rates – or how many cars can pass through a given restriction (such as an intersection).

So, yes, technically Judy is correct in saying we lose green. We do not, however, lose green in a specific cycle, and to suggest so is misleading.

But ultimately, even this argument is without merit because we are told that Red Light Cameras and lite timing is about safety. I think very few would argue that adding yellow does not increase safety at an intersection. My contention is born out by the fact that over 80% of red light infractions occur less than one second into a red light.

So if we trade a second of green for a second of yellow, isn’t it worth it if it saves a single families lives? Of course it is.

What is more, why are almost all lights in our city timed at the same 3.9 seconds that our 2 red light camera intersections are timed at, where approach speeds are considerably higher? Take a look at Jefferson and 5th – the approach is 30 mph and we have a…..3.9 second yellow – exactly the same for 100 and 47 that is over twice as wide and has a speed limit of 45 mph. Yes, some pretty high level science is going in to determining our yellow light sequences.

Guy W. Midkiff

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  


May 30, 2008

I have made a proposal to the Mayor and City Administrator that would utilize the city website as a conduit for our college age students to obtain summer internships in Washington. In cooperation with the Mayor’s office, students seeking internships in Washington could simply click on the city website and scroll through a job board listing summer jobs.

The hiring entity would log into the job section and list available positions.

This impudious for this idea came from speaking with residents in my ward, while on the campaign trail. It was a common theme, parents wanting to keep their families in Washington. Hopefully these internships could result in full time positions, after graduation.

Guy W. Midkiff

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Minnesota: Red Light Camera Removal Improved Safety

Accidents declined in Minneapolis, Minnesota after court decisions banned red light camera use.

Red light camera photo from MNNew data shows the lack of red light cameras in Minneapolis, Minnesota has had no negative effect on traffic safety. In 2005, the city was able to issue automated traffic tickets for just eight-and-a-half months before being stopped by a series of court rulings finding the program in violation of state law. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that since the cameras were turned off, accidents have gone down.

City Department of Public Works accident data comparing equivalent time periods show that one year prior to the installation of cameras, there were 104 accidents. In the time cameras were in use, the number dropped to 69 — a figure used to show how successful the cameras had been. Except in the year following the cameras’ removal, accidents dropped to 61.

Because these figures compare three sets of just eight-and-a-half month’s worth of data, their value is limited. Often, red light cameras are installed at a time when accidents are unusually high to take advantage of the statistical phenomenon known as regression to the mean. As the number of accidents returns to a “normal” level, city officials credit the change to their camera program. This example illustrates the regression effect by showing an even greater drop in accidents happened without the cameras in use.

In April last year, state Supreme Court ended all appeals and outlawed the use of red light cameras in the state (view ruling).

Source: Red-light cameras are a deeply personal issue (Minneapolis Star Tribune (MN), 5/4/2008)

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mo. House votes against intersection red-light cameras

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Map, News) –

House members voted Monday to restrict the use of red-light cameras.The amendments lay out requirements for communities that wish to use the cameras at intersections, mandate that the money be used for schools and allow certain drivers to be immune from prosecution.

Several of the state’s communities have installed cameras at intersections to check for motorists who run red lights. But the cameras have prompted concerns about privacy and controversy about enforcing the tickets, because it’s not always possible to determine the driver’s identity.

Another concern cited by critics is that the private companies that own the cameras earn some profits from each ticket issued.


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The red-light provisions were among the nearly two dozen amendments added to a transportation bill. That means it is likely that House and Senate negotiators will need to sort out the final terms. They have until Friday.

One of the changes would bar motorists from receiving a ticket from the red-light camera if they are permitted to not have a driver’s license for religious reasons. That was added to a separate amendment allowing for photo-less driver’s licenses in some cases.

Rep. Brian Yates said offenders caught by the cameras aren’t given points on their license – they’re just fined.

“There are no points because they just want your cash,” said Yates, R-Lee’s Summit.

A later amendment, sponsored by Rep. Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin, would prevent companies that own red-light cameras from getting a cut of the tickets issued because of the cameras. Portwood’s amendment limits payments to the value of the equipment and the price of the services to keep the system running.

Transportation is SB930

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 12:37 am  Leave a Comment  

L.A. red light cameras clicking for safety or revenue?

The enforcement system promises fewer collisions caused by drivers running through intersections. But in L.A., 80% of photo tickets are for right-turn violations, considered a less pressing safety concern.

By Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 20, 2008
» Discuss Article (390 Comments)

Porcia London walked into the West Los Angeles courthouse ready to fight her red light camera ticket.

Unlike some drivers facing fines, the 29-year-old homemaker had not risked a deadly broadside by sailing through a stop light — the principal safety problem cameras were intended to address. Her $159 citation came after she braked at a Manchester Avenue intersection, checked for cross traffic and made a right turn.

“I looked to make sure,” she said. “I wasn’t being unsafe.”

In Los Angeles, officials estimate that 80% of red light camera tickets go not to those running through intersections but to drivers making rolling right turns, a Times review has found. As London realized that day in court, her turn was illegal because she did not completely stop before turning.

One of the most powerful selling points for photo enforcement systems, which now monitor 175 intersections in Los Angeles County and hundreds more across the United States, has been the promise of reducing collisions caused by drivers barreling through red lights.

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But it is the right-turn infraction — a frequently misunderstood and less pressing safety concern — that drives tickets and revenue in the nation’s second-biggest city and at least half a dozen others across the county.

Some researchers and traffic engineers question the enforcement strategy.

“I’ve never . . . seen any studies that suggest red light cameras would be a good safety intervention to reduce right-turning accidents,” said Mark Burkey, a researcher at North Carolina A&T State University who has studied photo enforcement collision patterns.

Some county cities with photo enforcement opt not to target right turns. Others limit camera use for those citations.

“We’re kind of very leery about right turns. . . . They’re not really unsafe per se,” said Pasadena’s senior traffic engineer, Norman Baculinao. Only one of that city’s seven camera-equipped intersection approaches is set up to monitor right-turn violations, he said.

“This is intended to be a traffic safety program. People who make right turns generally are going at a low speed,” and resulting accidents tend to be a “sideswipe at most,” he said.

Emphasizing those violations, Baculinao said, would be “more for revenue generation” than safety.

Federal Highway Administration research has found that cameras can reduce red light violations and broadside crashes but can also increase less serious rear-end accidents caused by people making sudden stops to avoid tickets. Thus far, the studies have focused solely on straight-through and left-turn crashes because they are the most serious and common, said Doug Hecox, an agency spokesman.

Right-turn collisions are a “considerably rarer thing . . . [and] tend to have less likelihood of a fatality or serious injury,” he said.

Officials in Los Angeles and other cities that cite large percentages of right-turn violators — Covina, South Gate, Lancaster, Baldwin Park, Walnut and Montebello — say the infractions increase hazards, particularly for pedestrians. “People have this misconception that it’s OK to whip a right turn on a red light,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Jon White, with Lancaster’s photo enforcement program.

Right turns at red lights have “always been associated with some danger,” said transportation researcher Richard Retting of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Enforcing against drivers who don’t stop at all has the potential to make intersections safer.”

Cities choose which intersection approaches and movements — left turn, straight through, right turn or a combination — they want cameras to track, often after reviewing accident and violation data. Many cities record illegal right turns only when a vehicle is going 15 mph or faster.

The city of Los Angeles issued more than 30,000 photo tickets last year at 32 camera-equipped intersections. About eight in 10 involved right turns, said Los Angeles Police Sgt. Matthew MacWillie, the program’s co-coordinator.

Improper right turns had not caused a major accident problem, said Glenn Ogura, a city traffic engineer. But they reflect bad driver habits.

“They could actually hit a pedestrian,” he said. “We’ve been lucky, [but] it’s certainly, for us, a very real safety problem.”

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Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Why The Insurance Industry Loves Red-Light Cameras

May 20th, 2008 Posted in Red-Light Cameras

iihsmoney The insurance industry has been the leading advocate for red-light cameras since they were first introduced in the United States and it’s worth examining why they push so hard for their installation.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is wholly funded by the insurance industry, is often quoted by media as an unbiased source despite the fact they benefit financially from their installation.

Richard Retting is a senior transportation engineer for IIHS. He has even been called the “father of the red-light camera movement” in the United States. He’s also the author of nearly every red-light camera study that suggests that installing the cameras has a positive impact on traffic safety. However, as reporter Matt Labash pointed out in his 2002 series on red-light cameras, Retting and IIHS have a vested interested in seeing red-light cameras go mainstream:

Retting is a near ubiquitous presence in the debate. Statistics floated by his Institute are unblinkingly regurgitated by journalists, even if no one notices, for instance, that they have variously put the number of annual red-light-running fatalities at 750, 800, or 850 depending on which day you catch them.
Taking Retting’s word on the safety benefits of camera enforcement, say the critics, is a bit like trusting the Tobacco Institute that smoking increases lung capacity.
While most states don’t yet assess driver’s license points for automated infractions, plenty are toying with the idea, and a few, like California and Arizona, actually do. The insurance industry, then, has a financial stake in seeing as many photo tickets issued as possible, since speeding and red-light infractions allow insurance companies to bleed their customers with higher premiums for the next three to five years.

As Labash mentions above, cities in the state of California report ticket camera violations to insurance companies. This is an important point, especially when you consider that a recent report from the LA Times showed that 80% of red-light camera tickets in Los Angeles were right turn on red violations, which have never been linked to increased accidents.

Obviously, this is an insurance company’s dream.

They’re able to charge higher premiums without exposing themselves to increased risk of insurance claims.

Ultimately though, the red-light cameras are only the foot in the door that will allow speed cameras to become mainstream. Because the majority of speed limits in the United States are underposted, it’s likely that the majority of drivers will exceed the speed limit at some point. Once the speed cameras are installed, the discretion of an officer is removed from the equation and a huge increase in the number of speeding tickets becomes inevitable.

It’s already happening in Arizona where speed camera tickets are being used to balance the state budget.

With each ticket leading to increased insurance premium, drivers are being hit hard financially. Meanwhile, insurance industry profits skyrocket.

There’s no conspiracy theory necessary to understand why the insurance industry loves ticket cameras. It’s logical for them to support them.

But it’s also logical for everyone to take their pro-camera research with a grain of salt.

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  • Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 12:23 am  Leave a Comment  

    Longer yellow lights at 4 camera sites

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Denver is adding up to two seconds of yellow time at four intersections where it is installing red light enforcement cameras starting next month.

    Coming as a result of a Rocky Mountain News investigation into inadequate timing at those signals, the increased yellow times will meet or exceed national guidelines for proper signal timing.

    Without the change, the cameras could have become cash cows for traffic fines based on engineering defects rather than bad driving – and possibly brought an increase rather than decrease in accidents.

    The fine is $75.

    Cameras have been controversial around the country. When they are used at intersections with short yellows, the public has viewed them as revenue generators rather than safety measures.

    Comprehensive studies have shown that their presence usually is accompanied by an increase in the total number of accidents because of drivers braking sharply to avoid a ticket when they should have safely gone through under yellow.

    Overall, serious side-angle crashes can be reduced, but in some cases the number of those accidents has gone up. Cities such as Dallas have pulled out some of their cameras after increasing yellow times because they no longer generated enough tickets to pay for themselves.

    Denver has yellow signals set at the legal minimum of three seconds, the time considered appropriate for 25 mph traffic.

    “We want this program to be above reproach,” said Brian Mitchell, Denver’s traffic engineer. “We really are trying to improve safety.”

    The first camera is scheduled to go live June 10 on northbound Quebec Street at 36th Avenue. With a 45-mph speed limit there, engineering guidelines call for at least 4.3 seconds of yellow. That gives drivers a chance to stop safely or go through legally before the red if they are too close to stop.

    But Mitchell said the yellow time on Quebec will increase to five seconds from three when the camera is turned on.

    That change alone could substantially reduce red light running there. Denver’s contractor, Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australian-owned company with U.S. offices in Scottsdale, Ariz., counted 38 red light runners in a 12-hour period there last year. That’s one every 20 minutes.

    But with studies showing increased yellow time can reduce red light running up to 96 percent, violators at the Quebec light could be reduced to one every eight hours.

    Denver will put up cameras at three other intersections.

    At eastbound Sixth Avenue at Kalamath, the yellow will increase to four seconds; eastbound Sixth and Lincoln Street will increase to 3.5 seconds; and westbound Eighth Avenue at southbound Speer Boulevard will increase to four seconds.

    flynnk@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5247

    Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  

    Traffic cameras again exposed

    EDITORIAL: Red light district

    If authorities put their sales pitch for traffic enforcement cameras on television, it probably would look like one of those ubiquitous pharmaceutical advertisements. “Tired of dangerous red-light runners?” the voice-over would purr to footage of a family on a pleasant drive through suburbia. “Traffic cameras make roads safer and save lives.”

    But if advocates of the surveillance state were being honest, their commercial would end with the rapid-fire list of side effects that routinely sends you running to cover your kids’ ears.

    “May cause an increase in rear-end collisions. Traffic signals subject to manipulation to increase fine collections. Cameras may be used to prosecute previously undisclosed offenses.

    “If you suffer a loss of civil liberties, including due process protections, seek legal help immediately.”

    The people of Los Angeles County are the latest to learn that traffic enforcement cameras often don’t perform as advertised. The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the cameras which monitor 175 county intersections issue 80 percent of their tickets not to motorists who risk deadly crashes by speeding through stop lights or making sweeping left turns on red signals, but to commuters who make relatively safe right turns against red lights without coming to a complete stop.

    These tickets, which cost drivers $159 per violation, produce tens of thousands of dollars in revenue every month for the county and 23 participating cities.

    The cameras were installed with the promise that they’d hold reckless drivers accountable and reduce the number of broadside collisions caused by red-light runners. Motorists weren’t told that cameras would also be watching for rolling right turns, which almost never result in accidents and carry nearly no risk of causing a death or serious injury.

    “I’ve never … seen any studies that suggest red-light cameras would be a good safety intervention to reduce right-turning accidents,” Mark Burkey, a researcher at North Carolina A&T State University who studies photo enforcement collision patterns, told the Times.

    Cities and counties get to choose the offenses that intersection cameras will enforce. Many cities ticket only those illegal right turns made at 15 mph or faster. Some don’t ticket right-turn violations at all.

    But in the city of Walnut, the camera manufacturer advised officials on the number of tickets that would need to be generated to pay for the hardware. Chuck Robinson, assistant to the city manager, said revenue considerations forced the inclusion of right-turn enforcement. “It had to meet that,” Mr. Robinson told the Times.

    In Pasadena, only one of the city’s seven camera-enforcement insections nabs right-turn violators. “We’re kind of leery about right turns,” Norman Baculinao, Pasadena’s senior traffic engineer, told the Times. “They’re not really unsafe, per se. This is intended to be a traffic safety program. People who make right turns generally are going at a low speed.” Turning cameras loose on right-turn violators, he said, would be “more for revenue generation.”

    Exactly. The promise of safer roads and lives saved turns into a de facto tax increase on unsuspecting drivers — and a revenue source law enforcement agencies refuse to give up.

    It’s one more strike against a technology of dubious merit to begin with. At least six U.S. cities have been found to have shortened yellow light times to increase ticket revenue from red-light cameras. Texas Transportation Institute and Federal Highway Administration studies have found that enforcement cameras can increase rear-end collisions because ticket-conscious drivers become conditioned to slamming on their brakes at yellow lights through which they could safely have cruised. In the first half of this decade, Washington, D.C., actually saw an increase in fatal crashes at intersections that had enforcement cameras installed.

    And drivers have little legal recourse upon receiving a camera-issued ticket. The cameras often can’t identify the driver, putting the registered owner of a vehicle on the hook for the violations of another driver — even a thief. Municipalities aren’t obligated to produce witnesses in the event of an appeal. If a mailed ticket doesn’t find its way to the correct mailbox or gets lost prior to delivery, a driver can quickly amass additional fines or face an arrest warrant. And under provisions of the Patriot Act, red-light cameras create all new opportunities for government intrusion and privacy infringements.

    Traffic enforcement cameras are illegal in Nevada, but law enforcement agencies and a handful of Nanny State proponents seek a repeal of the statute every legislative session, always under the guise of driver safety. The 2009 legislative session will be no different.

    Lawmakers should view any push for traffic-enforcement cameras with skepticism.

    Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 12:06 am  Leave a Comment  

    St. Louis Alderman Charles Troupe – Calls to ban Red Light Cameras


    (KTVI – myFOXstl.com) —

    Red light cameras have been around the St. Louis area for more than three years.

    Police say they help prevent accidents.

    But now one lawmaker wants to ban them in the city of St. Louis.

    Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe says two million dollars has been collected in fines from the cameras.

    He’s asking for court data on all the violators because he believes many are law abiding citizens who got caught going a little too fast during a right turn on red.

    Troupe says the cameras aren’t getting the bad drivers off the road.

    Alderman Troupe is asking for a hearing on his bill before the streets committee in the next two weeks. He admits he may have a tough time getting the red light camera law repealed, but he’s hoping there will be revisions in the fines.

    Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 10:09 am  Comments (1)