It wouldn't be right to criticize an enforcement measure without presenting a better alternative. Supporters of photo enforcement schemes like to promote the enforcement capability of cameras without significantly increasing police staff and overhead. But the problem really appears to be, how do we achieve increased enforcement without increasing costs?
The answer is fairly obvious. Since speeding fines generate revenue, shouldn't it be possible to raise fines to an extent such that increased human enforcement costs are offset by the fines they generate? There really appears to be no reason why we can't put more police on the road and adjust fines to a level such as to achieve a break-even revenue scenario. More human police presence and enforcement on the road will make the streets safer and allow broader enforcement of ALL laws! Win-Win!
Engineering is an extremely viable solution that can cost very little and yield big results. Why would our officials rather put up cameras and fine us when they can simply adjust the light timing? Other examples of engineering leading to safety is improved signage, increasing visibility, adding timers, changing lane striping, adding turn lanes, and more:
Improved Signal Visibility: 40% of drivers say they did not see the signal or thought it was green. Countermeasures to improve signal visibility include redundancy, increasing the size of signal display (allows earlier sighting of signal), replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs, placing signals as close to the driver’s line of sight as possible, providing visors for lights that receive direct sun, and providing backplates for improved contrast.
Optimal Placement and Number of Signal Heads: Overhead mounted signals are more effective than pole-mounted signals. Pole-mounted signal heads pose three main challenges: lack of conspicuity; mounting locations may not provide a display with clear meaning and; and line-ofsight blockage. However, a combination of pole mounted and overhead mounted signals can provide extra conspicuity.
Increasing the Likelihood of Stopping: Intersections should be carefully engineered so that they provide sufficient information to the motorist regarding the traffic signal. With the information provided at the right time and place, the probability that a driver will stop for a red signal may increase. The likelihood of stopping at a red light may be increased at any given intersection through: signal ahead signs; advanced warning flashers; rumble strips; left-turn signal sign; and pavement condition (the age of a road as well as the pavement material influence how easily a car will skid in inclement weather).
Signal optimization: Poor signal timings are inefficient and may cause a driver to respond recklessly. The traffic demands at each intersection must be carefully analyzed when the phase sequence and timings are developed.
Signal cycle length: Proper timing of signal-cycle lengths reduce driver frustration and the temptation to run a red light. Signal timing includes the green, yellow and red phase for each approach as well as the overall signal-cycle length. Generally, the longer the overall signal-cycle length the fewer opportunities exist for red light running.
Yellow change interval: A properly timed yellow interval is essential to reduce signal violations. If the yellow interval is not long enough for the conditions at the intersection (i.e. approach speed, traffic volume, etc.), motorists will violate the signal, intentionally and unintentionally. A number of studies have confirmed that red light running violations decrease significantly with an increased yellow interval.
All-red clearance interval: Use of an all-red phase or clearance interval at a signalized intersection can improve the safety of an intersection significantly. However, the use of an all-red phase does not reduce red light running.
Innovations: LightGuard Systems Inc., located in Santa Rosa California, developed a series of in pavement illuminated devices in multiple colored LED’s installed along the limit line for approaching traffic, and focused the light in the direction of approaching motorists.
LinksTennessee Presentation on Red Light Cameras
Here are some additional examples in the news:
2009 Study: Deficient Roads Kill More Than SpeedingJan 8, 2016 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Major cities around the country, including New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC, have adopted "Vision Zero" strategy of reducing traffic fatalities through lowered speed limits and increased ticketing. A 2009 study conducted on behalf of the road construction industry suggests the focus on speeding is disproportionate and far more lives would be saved by devoting resources to engineering improvements.
Virginia Report Finds Female Drivers Need Longer Yellow TimesMay 21, 2015 TheNewspaper.com - Article
"It appears that the red-light runners did not violate the red light intentionally," the researchers observed. "Instead they appeared to misjudge their stop-run decision."
"The figure demonstrates that, in general, female drivers need longer yellow times compared to male drivers," the report found. "In addition, the age slightly affects the required yellow time, where older drivers need slightly longer yellow times when compared to younger drivers. The extreme comparison here could arise from comparing an intersection with a majority of old female drivers to another intersection with majority of young male drivers."
Florida: Yellow Light Refunds Highlight Engineering FailureMay 20, 2015 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Local activist David Shaw obtained four years' worth of citation data and realized through his investigation that the county had also failed to account for the steep 4.8 percent downhill grade on the camera-monitored approach. Florida's yellow time regulations mandated an extra 0.6 seconds because of the grade. On top of that, at the end of 2013 the state implemented new timing standards that added another second to the 45 MPH intersection. Accordingly, Orange County set the signal to 5.9 seconds on December 26, 2013, and the results were immediate and dramatic.
The number of citations issued plunged 91 percent and never recovered (view chart). Contrary to the photo enforcement industry's claim that drivers "adjust" to longer yellows, the data show citations have stayed at a minimal level for 15 months.
Ohio: Longer Yellows Cut Violations in Columbus, SpringfieldDec 2, 2014 TheNewspaper.com - Article
An extra second of yellow time is costing Ohio municipalities millions of dollars in annual revenue. The General Assembly in 2008 enacted a law requiring all cities using red light cameras to lengthen the duration of the warning given to motorists approaching a photo enforced intersection. Cities were given until March 12, 2009 to make the change, and the cities that complied saw a dramatic reduction in violations.
California Orders Longer Yellow Time At IntersectionsDec 10, 2014 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Complaints about the short yellow times at intersections are being heard. Last month, California officials approved the recommendations of a state signal timing committee extending the warning times for intersections statewide. These changes have now received the official go-ahead from the Federal Highway Administration.
Longer Yellows Cut Violations In HalfMar 25, 2014 TheNewspaper.com - Article
James Farley, a local resident, and Jay Beeber, Executive Director of Safer Streets LA, teamed up last year to present city officials with evidence of the need to increase the amount of yellow warning time given to motorists approaching an intersection to make a left-hand turn. The city agreed to conduct an experiment where the yellow time was increased at some red light camera intersections, but not others. The increased timing proved so effective that the photo ticketing program transformed overnight from a moneymaker issuing $5 million worth of tickets annually to a money loser issuing just $1.3 million worth. After paying Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, the county and the state, Santa Clarita ended up $121,834 in the red.
"Since the revised yellow-light timing was implemented, red-light running has dropped approximately 50 percent overall at the four intersections," city traffic engineer Andrew Yi explained in a memo to the council. "In most recent months, the trend has continued to hold with no noticeable increase in red-light running.... Citations issued in Fiscal Year 2013-14 are 45 percent lower than Fiscal Year 2012-13. This drop is directly attributed to fewer red-light violations due to the implementation of longer signal cycles and yellow-light times."
National Standard Heads Toward Longer Yellow TimesMar 20, 2054 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Red light camera use has been on the decline nationwide, and the industry's woes are set to worsen. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) is circulating proposed changes to its yellow signal timing formula that will give motorists more time to stop at intersections without getting a ticket in the mail.
ITE's proposed recommended practice guidelines are used by traffic engineers nationwide to determine how much yellow time is given at intersections. The federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommends the ITE method, and its use is mandatory under state law in Virginia. Following the work of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the new ITE proposal recognizes that most local jurisdictions post speed limit signs that are significantly slower than the actual speed of traffic. This throws off the calculation for yellow time, which is based in part on how long it takes for a car to come to a stop.
Cities are supposed to perform a speed study to determine the 85th percentile speed, which is the actual rate that a majority of motorists safely travel on a given road in free-flowing traffic. If they do not perform a proper study, the city must add 7 MPH to the speed limit when calculating the yellow time. In most cases, this will add between 0.3 and 0.4 seconds to the yellow time. The proposal also recommends longer yellows whenever there are too many red light violations.
Red light camera traps: Does science prove our yellow lights are too short?Mar 25, 2014 WTKR - Article
It could be the biggest money making scheme ever—red-light cameras, synched with short yellow lights, making it physically impossible for drivers to avoid a ticket.
Apopka to lengthen yellow lights at red-light camera intersectionsMar 25, 2014 Orlando Sentinel - Article
Apopka will lengthen by one second the yellow lights at intersections monitored by red-light cameras.
The city already had yellow lights that were longer than required by state rules, but city officials have agreed to add an extra second at photo-enforced intersections partly to quiet critics of Apopka's program, which has been Central Florida's leader in red-light revenue since 2007.
Henry Bentley, co-founder of Apopka-based Ban the Cams, predicted longer yellows will reduce crashes — and ticket revenue.
A Red Light For Cameras (Increse Light Timing)Mar 22, 2014 SCVNews.com - Article
The city is coming to the end of its five-year contract with Redflex for the management of its red light camera program. The contract expires April 1. We now have a great opportunity to correct some serious problems with our current system.
Tree felling considered to reduce crashes on A9Aug 23, 2013 Scotsman.com - Article
TREES obscuring drivers’ sight lines on the A9 could be cut down to improve overtaking safety, road chiefs said yesterday.
State of Florida to increase yellow light minimums following 10 News Investigation into red-light camera intersectionsJun. 4, 2013 WTSP - Article
TAMPA BAY, Fla. - Following a 10 News Investigation into short yellow lights at red light camera intersections, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will increase the minimum intervals for yellow lights statewide.
FDOT confirmed to 10 News on Monday the agency will add 0.4 seconds to all yellow interval minimums to allow drivers more time to safely react.
Case Studies: Longer Yellow Light Times Improve SafetyApr. 1, 2013 SaferStreetsLA.org - Article
The safety benefit of longer yellow signal times has been proven in a number of studies. In a 2004 Texas DOT study, traffic engineers Bonneson and Zimmerman noted that when the yellow interval duration is set one second longer than the “minimum time” based on the 85th percentile speed, violations decreased by 53% and crashes decreased by 40%.
Arizona: Longer Yellow Reduced AccidentsApr. 1, 2013 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Increasing the duration of the yellow signal at eight intersections in Chandler, Arizona reduced accidents, according to six years' worth of data collected by the city. In June 2007, the city increased the yellow at the intersection of Alma School Road and Ray by just 0.5 seconds. Officials were pleased to see a big drop in collisions, so timing was extended from 4.0 to 4.5 seconds at seven additional locations in November 2008.
Virginia Orders Longer Yellow Times at IntersectionsJan. 18, 2013 TheNewspaper.com - Article
The consensus is growing that drivers are being shortchanged by the duration of yellow lights at intersections. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) acknowledged this last week with a directive updating the way yellow times are calculated. On average, motorists will have about 0.5 seconds of additional time to come to a full stop. With the change, Virginia is following the lead of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) which released a study in October recommending state jurisdictions update their practices to be more consistent with proper engineering principles.
California: Benefit of Longer Yellow Proves LastingDec. 21, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Public officials and the photo enforcement industry argue the benefits of lengthening yellow lights is temporary. Municipalities that use red light cameras for the most part are highly reluctant to increase the amount of yellow warning time at an intersection, citing the theory that motorists "adapt" to the longer yellow, encouraging even more red light running. New data from Fremont, California suggests the reduction in red light running violations from longer yellows is lasting.
Florida County Chooses Longer Yellow Over Red Light CamerasDec. 13, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Commissioners in Collier County, Florida voted 3-2 on Wednesday to pull the plug on red light cameras. The devices have stirred controversy and class action lawsuits since ticketing began at ten county intersections on April 30, 2009. Though opinion on the board of commissioners was divided on the wisdom of continuing the program, city officials were unanimous in demanding an increase in the duration of the yellow lights at intersections.
New Mexico: Report Documents Benefit to Longer YellowsDec 10, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico began scaling back its red light camera program in response to public pressure two years ago. Instead of operating cameras, city officials decided to apply a modest increase to the yellow signal duration at eighteen of the twenty intersections where cameras had previously been used. A report released in September found the change had produced a measurable benefit.
The University of New Mexico (UNM) looked at 11 months of data before the timing change (during most of this time photo ticketing was operational) and after the timing increased. City officials told researchers only to use a basic comparison controlled for traffic volume as "sufficient" for this study. A more robust empirical Bayes analysis was not performed, but the researchers described the more thorough scientific research as supporting the hypothesis that longer yellows can have safety benefits.
Group Challenges Feds to Improve Intersection SafetyNov 19, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Cities around the country that have experimented with longer yellow signal times have reported great success in improving safety. Georgia towns, for example, saw 80 percent reductions in violations after a law kicked in mandating longer yellows (view results). Last month, the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies came out with a recommendation that would result in adding an extra 0.5 seconds of yellow to the average signal.
In light of the growing consensus, National Motorists Association (NMA) is leaning on transportation officials in Washington in the hope that they will update national regulations. In a letter sent Thursday, the Wisconsin-based group asked Federal Highway Administration head Victor Mendez to update the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) so that local governments could no longer get away with just posting intersections at the current 3.0 second minimum.
Study Admits Yellow Times Too Short at IntersectionsNov 5, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
A report by state transportation officials released last week tacitly admitted drivers are being shortchanged when the light at an intersection turns yellow. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) released its guidelines on how municipalities can best time their signals for safety. The net result is that most intersections would see yellows extended by roughly half-a-second if the recommendations were adopted.
"Increasing the yellow change interval to the duration calculated by current ITE guidelines has been shown to reduce red-light running occurrences between 36 and 50 percent," the report explained.
Oakland, California Accidents Decreased with Longer Yellow TimesSep 25, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
An analysis of accidents in Oakland, California suggests lengthening yellow times at red light camera intersections produced more of a safety benefit than the introduction of photo enforcement. As TheNewspaper reported last week, the city's transportation department experimented for about four months with increased yellow warning times at camera intersections until the police lieutenant who worked with the camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems complained about what he saw as an alarming reduction in the number of citations being issued. The timing was then shortened back to its original value.
Texas Study Finds Wider Highways Safer, Virginia Narrows RoadsAug 16, 2012 TheNewspaper.com - Article
An forthcoming study by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) found highway widening projects increased safety in the Lone Star State. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) tasked TTI to evaluate a broad range of safety improvements undertaken by the agency, but researchers decided to offer a preview last week of one of TxDOT's most effective programs.
"The agency's roadway widening initiative has been a tremendous success, both for increasing safety on Texas highways and potentially saving billions of dollars associated with fatal crashes and sustained injuries," TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said in a statement.
Sluggish Economy Yields Record Traffic Safety BenefitDec 12, 2011 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Fewer people died on America's roads than at any time in the past sixty-one years, according to an analysis of 2010 accident data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some in the transportation industry have cited their own public policies or products as the primary reason for the statistical improvement announced Thursday, but the evidence suggests other factors such as advances in technology and the lingering effects of the past recession are at play.
"It's the result of three important factors," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote in his FastLane blog. "Cars are safer as crash avoidance and crash worthiness technologies continue to improve. Roads are safer with safer intersections, better signs and lighting, improved pavement technologies, and more effective crash barriers. Drivers are safer, buckling their seatbelts at record rates and choosing not to get behind the wheel after drinking."
Missouri: Violations Still Down with Longer YellowsSep 26, 2011 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Photo enforcement advocates downplay the benefit of increased yellow time in addressing the problem of red light running. New evidence from Arnold, Missouri shows that red light cameras continue to flash at a much lower rate since the state mandated longer signal timing at a number of photo-enforced intersections.
Red Light, Yellow Light: Red-light citations plummet in ArnoldSep 14, 2011 Wtaskiwin Times - Article
City council received a report as information for the implementation of a number of changes to speed zones within city limits.
The recommendations were included in the Opus traffic study, which was presented to city council at its Aug. 22 regular meeting.
Red Light, Yellow Light: Red-light citations plummet in ArnoldJun 30, 2011 Riverfront Times - Article
Beginning in February, MoDOT began changing the yellow-light signal times throughout Arnold. In general, the change to the signals has lengthened the amount of time the light stays yellow.
In so doing, MoDOT has triggered an unintended consequence — the number of red-light runners caught by photo enforcement in Arnold has plummeted.
In January, the city issued 691 red-light camera citations. By March, the number of citations had plunged to 263. And last month, the vendor that operates Arnold's red-light cameras — American Traffic Solutions — confirms that it issued just 198 citations. That's a drop of 72 percent from January.
Charlottetown forcing slower trafficAug. 9, 2011 CBC News Canada - Article
The City of Charlottetown has begun experimenting with traffic calming measures to force vehicles to move more slowly along residential streets.
The city's war on speeders dates back to 2006. It started with a debate on photo radar, but when the province wouldn't move on legislation to allow tickets with photo radar evidence it simply upped the budget for traffic policing.
Harnessing the Power of Feedback LoopsJun. 19, 2011 Wired - Article
So city engineers decided to take another approach. In five Garden Grove school zones, they put up what are known as dynamic speed displays, or driver feedback signs: a speed limit posting coupled with a radar sensor attached to a huge digital readout announcing "Your Speed."
The results fascinated and delighted the city officials. In the vicinity of the schools where the dynamic displays were installed, drivers slowed an average of 14 percent. Not only that, at three schools the average speed dipped below the posted speed limit. Since this experiment, Garden Grove has installed 10 more driver feedback signs. "Frankly, it’s hard to get people to slow down," says Dan Candelaria, Garden Grove’s traffic engineer. "But these encourage people to do the right thing."
Pioneering traffic light scheme set to replace speed camerasMay. 19, 2011 Swindon Advertiser - Article
Two roads in Swindon have been chosen for a pilot study, the first in the entire country, where traffic lights will turn to red if they detect a speeding motorist approaching in a bid to stop them in their tracks.
Missouri: State Moves for Longer Yellow, Reduced ViolationsMay. 11, 2011 TheNewspaper.com - Article
The impact of the longer yellow at red light camera monitored locations was felt immediately. In January, before any signal timing had been changed, American Traffic Solutions recorded 875 alleged violations in the city of Arnold. At the end of April, that figure fell 70 percent to just 266. Jefferson County Councilman Bob Boyer obtained the ATS statistics after learning that MoDOT had extended the yellow times.
Trees - the 'imaginative alternative' to speed camerasMar. 10, 2011 Daily Mail - Article
Trees could soon be used instead of speed cameras after a Government study found they were just as effective in slowing down traffic.
Creating an avenue of trees and hedges had a dramatic impact on motorists’ behaviour, a trial in Norfolk has found.
New Jersey: Longer Yellow Eliminates Red Light RunningMar. 3, 2011 TheNewspaper.com - Article
Red light running all but disappeared at a New Jersey intersection after the duration of the yellow light warning time was increased under threat of a lawsuit. Glassboro gave the private company American Traffic Solutions (ATS) permission to issue red light camera tickets at the intersection of William Dalton Drive and Delsea Drive on March 26. The location was so successful at issuing $85 tickets that it generated $1 million worth of notices within just seven months.
Red-light cameras, good riddanceMar. 16, 2009 Atlanda Jounral-Constitution - Article
Five Gwinnett cities Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee - have either thrown in the towel on red-light cameras at high-traffic intersections or plan to drastically curtail their use.
For this, credit should go to State Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cartersville), who introduced legislation last year that put reasonable restrictions on their use. His legislation, passed into law, took the regulation of red-light cameras from the cities that were using them as ATMs and put them under the Georgia Department of Transportation.
It also required the cities that employed them to "provide demonstrable evidence that there is a genuine safety need." Safety and not the revenue to be generated had to be the deciding factor. "The only consideration shall be the increased lifesaving value," the bill stipulated.
Importantly, too, local governments couldnt tinker with the signal timing to gin up dollars. "The minimal yellow light change interval shall be established in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards" plus one second, the law provided.
Do Denver red-light cameras deter violations?Jan. 4, 2009 RockyMountainNews.com - Article
The raw data that is available lends credence to standard traffic engineering practice outside Denver that increasing yellow-light timing reduces red-light running.
Virginia: How Shortened Yellow Yielded Greater ProfitJan. 8, 2009 TheNewspaper.com - Article
VDOT decided to increase the yellow timing from 4.0 back to 5.5 seconds. The impact was immediate and dramatic. Average monthly violations dropped from 250 to between 20 and 30 per month -- a 90 percent decrease.
The Yellow Menace: The police could make intersections safer with longer yellow lights. But the city wouldn't make any money that way.Apr. 2, 2002 Weekly Standard - Article
Extending yellow times has proven successful, even if cities don't publicize it. In San Diego, where even the police chief was caught admitting that at many red-light-camera intersections, accidents have increased, the nation's bloodiest skirmish over red-light cameras has played itself out in court, revealing all sorts of city/contractor chicanery. There, lawyers representing motorists found the city planting a red-light camera at an intersection where no accidents had occurred for years. But that didn't stop the camera from generating 2,000 citations per month, until engineers realized the yellow light was more than a second too short. When they increased it, the number of citations dropped to fewer than 300 per month.
Congressman signals need for light changeJun. 1, 2001 Arizona Tribune - Article
A U.S. congressman's staff report states the best way to reduce redlight running is to boost the duration of yellow signal lights, an idea that is working at six Mesa intersections.