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Do you agree with FDOT on reducing yellow light timing to increase revenue from red light camera tickets?

Florida quietly shortened yellow light standards & lengths, resulting in more red light camera tickets for you

3:50 PM, May 14, 2013   |    110  comments

TAMPA BAY, Florida -- A subtle, but significant tweak to Florida's rules regarding traffic signals has allowed local cities and counties to shorten yellow light intervals, resulting in millions of dollars in additional red light camera fines.

The 10 News Investigators discovered the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) quietly changed the state's policy on yellow intervals in 2011, reducing the minimum below federal recommendations. The rule change was followed by engineers, both from FDOT and local municipalities, collaborating to shorten the length of yellow lights at key intersections, specifically those with red light cameras (RLCs).

While yellow light times were reduced by mere fractions of a second, research indicates a half-second reduction in the interval can double the number of RLC citations -- and the revenue they create. The 10 News investigation stemmed from a December discovery of a dangerously short yellow light in Hernando County. After the story aired, the county promised to re-time all of its intersections, and the 10 News Investigators promised to dig into yellow light timing all across Tampa Bay.

Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year inapproximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.

"Red light cameras are a for-profit business between cities and camera companies and the state," said James Walker, executive director of the nonprofit National Motorists Association. "The (FDOT rule-change) was done, I believe, deliberately in order that more tickets would be given with yellows set deliberately too short."

The National Motorists Association identifies itself as a grassroots group that's been advocating for drivers since 1982. It fought the national 55 mph speed limit and is now campaigning against red light camera technology, contending the technology primarily targets safe drivers who are victims of short yellow lights or safely roll through right turns.

Proponents of the technology hang their hats on a reduction of serious accidents at RLC intersections. They also point out that every electronically generated violation is reviewed by a local police officer or sheriff's deputy before a citation is validated and sent to a driver. But questions about the fairness and constitutionality of RLCs linger, with questionable motivations of the state's yellow light reductions likely to add fuel to the fire.


Yellow light times are calculated by a complex formula that takes into account variables such as the size of an intersection, the incline/decline of the roadway, driver reaction time, and deceleration rate. But ultimately, the proper intervals come down to a driver's approach speed.

When the Florida legislature approved 2010's Mark Wandell Act, regulating red light cameras across the state, FDOT had a long-standing rule that mandated yellow light calculations factor in either the posted speed limit or 85th percentile of drivers' actual speed --whichever was greater.  The point of the law was to calculate safe stopping times for the majority of drivers on any given roadway. 

But in 2011, FDOT struck the "whichever is greater" language from its Traffic Engineering Manual (TEM), reducing minimum yellow light lengths and allowing communities to re-time their signals at RLC intersections.

The 10 News Investigators found a number of communities shortened their already-safe intervals to the new minimums. In some cases, FDOT mandated longer yellow lights, but seemingly only at intersections that hadn't been in compliance for years.  Around Greater Tampa Bay, the yellow interval reductions typically took place at RLC intersections and corridors filled with RLC cameras.

FDOT's change in language may have been subtle, but the effects were quite significant. The removal of three little words meant the reduction of yellow light intervals of up to a second, meaning drastically more citations for drivers. A 10 News analysis indicates the rule change is likely costing Florida drivers millions of dollars a year.

"I think it's immoral to do that," Walker said. "You're basically punishing safe drivers with deliberately improper engineering. That's not moral to me."


The story continues in the link above.  

My question is, do you think that since the state decided to change the length of the yellow light at intersections, they should also be held accountable in incidents of injury or death that results when driving conditions are all within the law and due to the shortened length of the yellow light, an accident occurs?  I understand the personal responsibility issues, but there is a science to timing the yellow lights to allow for safe driving conditions.  Their appetite for additional revenue should not be just cause to make arbitrary changes in order to satisfy their greed.  


Asked by QuinnMae at 11:08 AM on May. 15, 2013 in Politics & Current Events

Level 48 (292,708 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (12)
  • They have done something similar here with a few lights that have cameras. It is really irritating as you can be approaching a green light start crossing and have the light be red before you're even half way through the intersection because of how much they have shortened the yellow light. It literally "blinks" yellow then it's red. In the end it causes more accidents than not and then you have that to deal with as well as the backed up traffic.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 11:26 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • It seems like they've done it here too... but they don't give tickets, they just let cars smash into other cars and collect revenue from the wrecks... (that's my theory)

    Answer by m-avi at 11:10 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • I don't agree with it at all. The way I was taught, yellow is "prepare to stop." It's to warn you to start stopping if you're far enough back to do so, and if you're not, you keep going - not speed up to get through, but to allow you to keep going without risking having to slam on your brakes and have cars behind you slam into you. It's to allow for things like the roads being too wet to stop quickly, stuff like that. It seems to me that this would lead to more accidents, as well as the tickets they're trying for.

    Safety should always take the priority over making more money.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 11:40 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • I think it's fair. You have no idea how many accidents or almost accidents I have seen because someone tried to beat the yellow light.

    So shortening the yellow light is going to make this better, how?

    Answer by kmath at 11:44 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • A lot of the yellow lights were already pretty short in Tampa, now they are worse. I am actually surprised there haven't been more accidents lately. People drive like dumbasses down there anyway. Sometimes I really hate my state.

    Answer by kmath at 11:11 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • I'm torn on how I feel about this. On one hand, people shouldn't continue driving through a yellow light just for safety reasons, but at the same time it seems like the residents of Tampa are being cheated.

    Answer by Ginger0104 at 11:13 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • It is nothing but a revenue grab. I have never received a ticket but my DH got one when he was going through a green light & then got stuck in an intersection when the light turned red because some dim wit decided to make an illegal u-turn & held up all the cars behind him. I think it is also creating accidents since now people jam on their breaks at a yellow light in fear of a ticket so people behind them get into accidents. Nothing more than a revenue maker. It hasn't cut down on accidents here only added to them.

    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 11:52 AM on May. 15, 2013

  • One of the things I hate about living here is nobody ever explained the concept of left turn lanes to anyone in charge of traffic here. The few places that have them, they don't start until a car length and a half back from the intersection, and there's never a turning arrow. The only way you will ever turn left on those streets is to pull into the intersection on green, wait 3 minutes, and turn on yellow. If they tried that timing thing here, the entire city would gridlock after the first hour, and nobody would ever get home again - we'd all have to live in our cars wherever they were stuck.

    It's incredibly short sighted to assume the only thing people do on yellow is speed up to get through the light, that or an indication someone doesn't drive often.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 12:32 PM on May. 15, 2013

  • Shortening yellow light times at intersections with red light cameras with the idea of increasing revenue from red light violations seems greedy at best, dishonest at worst.

    Answer by Ballad at 12:45 PM on May. 15, 2013

  • Just to clarify, I am not against red light cameras. I am totally against stacking the odds and making more red light tickets likely at the cost of injury or death. I just think that they are setting themselves up for litigation when something bad happens. I realize that they conveniently struck the language from their rules, but that seems really immoral to me.

    kmath, I don't think this is just a Florida thing. While it is the example in the article, I wouldn't be surprised at all if this was happening nation wide.


    Comment by QuinnMae (original poster) at 11:16 AM on May. 15, 2013