California bill would lengthen yellow time at camera-posted intersections

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/25/2013

A California state lawmaker wants to improve safety, and cut into profits, by lengthening yellow times at intersections posted with red-light cameras.

State law requires the minimum yellow time duration set at three seconds and a maximum duration of six seconds, with the longer intervals reserved for roadways with higher speeds.

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Sherman Oaks, introduced a bill that would mandate all cities throughout the state that use the ticket cameras to lengthen yellow lights by one second. Any locales that do not make the change would have citations dismissed.

The Assembly voted 72-1 to advance the bill to the Senate. AB612 awaits further consideration in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

Critics of red-light cameras say that short yellow times are a sneaky way to boost revenue. Instead, they urge lawmakers that by simply adding fractions of a second to yellow times could significantly reduce violations.

The National Motorists Association referred to research showing that lengthening yellow times reduces red-light running incidents 60 to 90 percent.

Jim Walker, a NMA consultant, previously told Land Line that lengthening yellow times will almost always reduce violation rates far more than cameras.

Nazarian also notes that numerous studies have found that extending yellow light intervals reduces rear-end collisions. He said that local jurisdictions may tend to set yellow times below the minimum.

Advocates for the automated ticket machines say that tweaking yellow times would put more people in danger. They caution lawmakers that changing the rules would also reward bad behavior.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports efforts to limit ticket cameras. OOIDA officials say the focus on the revenue-generating devices ignores the more logical and reasoned approach to roads and traffic.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer has said the goal should be to keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible. He has also said that communities would be better served to pursue “intelligent traffic lights that actually monitor traffic and are triggered by traffic flow.”

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