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Denver Must Prove Red-Light Cameras Improve Safety

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-red-light-district dept.

Transportation 433

An anonymous reader writes "An audit of accidents at Denver intersections where red light cameras were installed versus increasing the length of the yellow light shows little difference in the results. In a case of putting the public ahead of the corporation, the Denver auditor is recommending canceling the red light camera program unless the city can prove a public-safety benefit." I hope that private citizens offering analysis or recommendations are treated fairly.

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433 comments

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I Seem To Recall (5, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434120)

...reading some years back that the Red Light camera companies had specific language in the contracts that restricted the length of yellow lights.

A cynical person might think they wanted people running red lights. But I'm not...oh, fuck it. I am cynical.

Re:I Seem To Recall (5, Informative)

digitalaudiorock (1130835) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434186)

As I recall, cities were in fact called out for shortening yellow lights for profit, and risking lives in the process. A quick Google search found this: http://blog.motorists.org/6-cities-that-were-caught-shortening-yellow-light-times-for-profit/ [motorists.org]

Re:I Seem To Recall (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434254)

Notice how no one went to jail for any of that. It's almost as if corruption were permitted in the US.

Re:I Seem To Recall (2, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434284)

Is there any where in the world where it isn't, in practice, permitted.

As long as you aren't caught by the right people, go for it!

Re:I Seem To Recall (0, Flamebait)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434352)

Well, good thing there are no bad people in other countries. Its comforting to know that all evil and corruption in the world is confined to the US.

Re:I Seem To Recall (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434452)

If it's everywhere, I guess it's just fine that it's permitted in the US.

Do people really think like this? What's wrong with them?

Re:I Seem To Recall (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434590)

What's wrong is that they live in hope that one day, somehow, they'll cross the line and be on that gravy train full of free money.

In America it's called "The American Dream". It's why things like the outrage against wall street and the bankers is a few people in tents when it should really have far more pitchforks, lynchings and burning mansions.

Re:I Seem To Recall (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434468)

Come now, let's attend to the plank in our own eye first.

Re:I Seem To Recall (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434722)

Not all. we're just the most hypocritical.

Re:I Seem To Recall (1, Insightful)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434844)

It is as long as there is a bracketed letter behind your name.

Same thing happening across the pond. (1)

Skylinux (942824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434902)

Same shit different country.

Re:I Seem To Recall (4, Insightful)

alexo (9335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435018)

Notice how no one went to jail for any of that. It's almost as if corruption were permitted in the US.

Corruption is not permitted in the US. It is encouraged.

Re:I Seem To Recall (5, Informative)

bjdevil66 (583941) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434998)

Cities ABSOLUTELY cheat on yellow light timing - and they always will be because after they sign the contracts, they realize just how much money they HAVE to bring in just to pay the minimum monthly fees to the camera companies.

Case in point: In Paradise Valley, Arizona, they were caught red-handed by anti-camera activists intentionally shortening yellow lights [wordpress.com] going less than four seconds, which was a threshold they were never supposed to go under. The city claimed they weren't doing it, until this youtube video [youtube.com] proved they were cheating at photo radar intersections.

After being caught red-handed, the city quietly and quickly - the very next day, in fact - changed the timing to match that minimum threshold.

In downtown Chandler, AZ, there was another well-known intersection with cameras with a shorter yellow time than the others, and it led to a majority of ALL of its camera "revenue".

Bottom line: There are a ton of revenue-desperate city councils out there full of dopes who aren't clever enough to see what the snake oil salesmen from camera companies are selling: "sin tax safety" AND revenue to boot, with a huge gotchas attached. It's going to take years to flush the system of these safety-neutral, revenue positive cameras.

BTW - Everyone should take notice that Los Angeles hasn't burned to the ground after turning off their cameras. It's safe to say that if LA can live without cameras, Denver (and any other major city in the United States) would probably avoid their own "carmageddon" as well...

The MUTCD and ITE (4, Informative)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434212)

specifies that the duration of the yellow change interval should be between 3 and 6 seconds. And people have won court cases over red light tickets over the yellow time being too short.

http://www.ite.org/decade/pubs/IR-117-E.pdf [ite.org]

http://www.ite.org/safety/issuebriefs/Traffic%20Signals%20Issue%20Brief.pdf [ite.org]

http://www.ite.org/annualmeeting/compendium10/pdf/AB10H2601.pdf [ite.org]

Re:The MUTCD and ITE (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434694)

Also worth reading this - Oregon DOT Recommendations: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/TRAFFIC-ROADWAY/docs/pdf/ODOT_yellow_red_clear_policy_A1.pdf?ga=t

The 3 to 6 recommendation is based on some general assumptions and characteristics. It's still a mathematical equation. Also, here's a few c/p from the parent's references that are relevant (including the statement that yellow duration is commonly limited by control manufacturers and the shortfall is made up during a red phase):

The calculation requires values for perception/reaction time of the driver, deceleration rate for stopping vehicle, vehicle speed, approach grade (uphill, downhill), intersection width and design vehicle length. The standard value used for the perception and reaction time of drivers approaching a signalized intersection is 1.0 sec.

The Highway Design Handbook for Older Drivers and Pedestrians concludes that the 1.0-sec. reaction time is appropriate for both older and younger drivers, but that the use of a 1.5-sec. reaction time “is well justified when engineering judgment determines a special need to take older drivers’ diminished capabilities into account.”

The MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices) indicates that the yellow change interval should be set within the range of 3 to 6 sec. and many signal controller units will not permit settings outside of this range. If the phase change interval needs to be near the top of this range or beyond, the additional time is sometimes provided as part of a red clearance
interval.

Re:I Seem To Recall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434824)

Another person would realize that any good state would have regulations on the minimum length of yellow lights in the first place, which would supersede such contracts.

Mine does.

Re:I Seem To Recall (4, Insightful)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435160)

An observant person might think they wanted people running red lights.

A realist might think they wanted people running red lights.

Anyone capable of rational thought might think they wanted people running red lights.

Fixed that for you. Take your pick.

Are yellows in Denver really short? (4, Insightful)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434162)

I know here in Canada and in all the places I've been in the US yellows are plenty long.

The issue is assholes entering the intersection to turn left when it isn't clear, people refusing to stop when the light does turn yellow, etc.

I'd actually want to see a very clear causal link between longer yellows and safety increases, because my gut tells me longer yellows would make people ignore them even more.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434198)

In many states drivers are taught to enter the intersection to take a left turn, and it's legal.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434402)

....until the light turns yellow, and oncoming drivers continue to pass through the intersection. Oh no, the light is now red, there is intersecting traffic, and youre blocking one of the traffic lanes. At this point you can either do a really dangerous left turn, or remain blocking the traffic, or try to back up (assuming people havent filled in behind you.

Entering the intersection makes sense when you can see an opening coming shortly, but if there is a line of traffic entering the intersection to make a left turn is just going to make traffic worse and create a dangerous situation.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434518)

"Oh no, the light is now red, there is intersecting traffic"

no cross traffic should enter the intersection until the way is clear.

Green != Go

Green = precede if clear

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434646)

Entering the intersection makes sense when you can see an opening coming shortly, but if there is a line of traffic entering the intersection to make a left turn is just going to make traffic worse and create a dangerous situation.

The car making the left turn is stopped in the intersection and not colliding with anyone and the cars behind the white line can not enter the intersection once the light turns red. If traffic congestion proves too bad, the traffic engineer can make the green light longer on the side that has the most cars waiting to turn left and add a green arrow.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (4, Informative)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434876)

In most states, the person in the intersection (e.g. you), has the right away over people entering the intersection. Since in some states it is perfectly legal to enter the intersection on yellow, the people proceeding straight in front of your intended route have the right of way. This is of course ignoring how some people enter on yellow when they were perfectly capable of stopping safely. Once traffic finally stops, no one should be entering the intersection from crossing traffic until you are clear of the intersection. If they do, they are violating traffic law just as much as someone running a red light.

There should never be backing up in an intersection unless you think it is the only way to prevent a wreck, or reduce the severity of one. And even then, you better think twice, quickly.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (4, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435056)

At this point you can either do a really dangerous left turn, or remain blocking the traffic, or try to back up (assuming people havent filled in behind you.

I've driven in a dozen states, all on the east coast of the US. In those states, this is not only permitted, it is the correct thing to do. It is taught that way in driver's education and a traffic cop will direct you to do this as well. When the light turns red, the driver in the intersection completes the left turn. It is not dangerous because there are a few seconds where the light remains red specifically as a time to clear the intersection. The only problem I've ever seen is when bad drivers either stay in the intersection and block it, or back-up - both of which are illegal.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435128)

sometimes the car in front of me goes far into the intersection, I go a little into the intersection and the car in front of me doesn't take advantage of an opening in the oncoming traffic. so now I'm stuck partway into a red-light intersection.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435138)

the alternative being when the car in front doesn't pull up and only he or she can get through the green at all...

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434680)

Yes, thank you. I wish more people understood this. You get many more through an intersection if the lead left-turner pulls into the intersection.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434706)

In many states drivers are taught to enter the intersection to take a left turn, and it's legal.

That's why there's not only a yellow delay, but a red delay as well. If you're in the intersection when the light turns red, you're supposed to go. The red delay provides clearance for you to do so.

Obviously you're not supposed to enter the intersection if you're turning left, the light is yellow, and the lane is blocked.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434818)

It's also legal in Canada, or at least Ontario. The OP is a moron. You may always enter the intersection to perform a manoeuvre you have a green light for (in fact, the HTA says you can receive a ticket for NOT doing so). Once you are fully in the intersection, if you light turns red because you cannot complete the manoeuvre you are permitted (and required), by the HTA to complete the manoeuvre on red.

Yes, you must wait until the intersection is clear, that is also in the HTA, however, that is much more discretionary than the other directions, since the driver may start their left turn and realize the intersection is not clear before they complete their turn due to a blocked view or a car speeding up, at which point the driver is required to yield the right of way.

Furthermore, while it is horribly annoying when people overstep this and try to squeeze three cars though, it present absolutely no collision risk because the left turn is complete either during the time when the whole intersection is red (yes, the entire intersection is supposed to be red for a moment before the other traffic is allowed to move) or as the other light turns green (in which case they are stopped and notice you in their path so they wait to proceed). The only possible time I can see it being a problem is when a driver decides to speed at a stale red, not paying attention to the intersection, in the hope that the intersection will be clear and the light will magically turn green. That sort of driver was planning to run the red, anyways.

I *have* driven in an area where left turns on red are "illegal" (Philadelphia) and they aren't really illegal as far as I can tell. Instead, the left turn lights turn RED after they give you an opportunity to do a protected left turn. Notice that in the first paragraph I mention the driver must have a green light when they enter...

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434884)

Not that's not what is taught or legal in the US. If you cannot make it all the way though an intersection before the light turns red, you should not be entering that intersection.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434214)

that's far too reasonable a request for a government entity. it is direct, simple, and requires very little process. not a chance.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1, Insightful)

captbob2002 (411323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434248)

That's what I see. Longer yellow lights, more people running them because they know the yellow is longer, so let's make the yellow even longer...Hey, here is a thought, if you don't want a ticket, don't run the damn light. Trouble stopping when the light changes? maybe you ought to have been driving the speed limit - and not chatting on your phone.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (3, Insightful)

SirGeek (120712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434430)

So you'd rather have someone slam on their brakes so that you rear-end their car and are immediately at fault ?

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434492)

If you're paying attention and following at a safe distance, why are you slamming on your brakes and hitting anything?

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434602)

That's a real comfort to the guy who gets rear ended and is left crippled for life, a real comfort.

In the real world, people don't follow rules and it's well known that American drivers aren't the best in the world. Good solutions to real life problems take this into account.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (5, Insightful)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434504)

You should never be so close to the car in front of you that this happens. If you are, you absolutely are at fault.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (4, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435176)

The problem isn't fault, it's the consequences of a collision. Even a minor crash can result in injury, and thousands of dollars of damage and medical bills during a recession economy. Even if insurance covers you, your rates may increase.

Now add in the camera fines. Most cities get a small cut of the fines, typically not enough to cover court costs on all the cases that get thrown out.

The camera vendor is the only one to make money in this deal. Profits get larger by convincing the city to decrease yellow times, and by manipulating the cameras to catch people who were behind the line by inches but posed no danger.

The economy suffers in order to make a government vendor rich... is that what we want?

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (2)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435220)

Hey, here is a thought, if you don't want a ticket, don't run the damn light. Trouble stopping when the light changes? maybe you ought to have been driving the speed limit - and not chatting on your phone

You're looking at things in terms of who is at fault and what a particular driver should do.

That is a dumb way to think when setting policy. If (and that's actually a big if that branch-prediction tends to get wrong) the goal is to increase public safety and reduce collisions, then you acknowledge that some idiots out there are going to be entering intersections right after their light turns yellow (yes, that's bad), will be following other cars closely (yes, that's bad), and doing other dumb things (yes, that's bad), and that there are sometimes collisions as a result. Then you ask, "What do we do about this?"

Giving tickets to bad drivers as a deterrent force is a perfectly valid idea which can be implemented in parallel with other approaches, but for whatever reason, after using that approach for many decades, people didn't think it was good enough. So they came up with the totally stupid idea of government punishing suspected offenders without due process, and that creates a new problems for everyone (whether they obey traffic laws or not) and suddenly traffic safety isn't relatively important anymore, because we've regressed on simple law and order.

Those other approaches to run in parallel with ticketing, include things like increasing the yellow time, so that there will be fewer collisions when drivers screw up.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (5, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434386)

I have seen several studies showing a very distinct link between length of the yellow and safety. This study [motorists.org] shows that increasing the length of the yellow decreases red light violations and this article [motorists.org] references several studies that show that this effect does not diminsh with time. So, your gut is wrong on this one (although I understand why you would suspect that to be the case).

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434896)

If I hadn't commented already, and I still had moderation points, you'd deserve all 5 for this week.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Jeffrey_Walsh VA (1335967) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435134)

Shortening yellows where there are cameras is truly of grave concern. And yes studies have shown that longer yellows can make an intersection safer and reduce incidence of violations - at that intersection. But there seems to be a paradox wherein drivers may become accustom to the longer yellows, diminishing the benefits, and making those intersections where yellows have not been extended more dangerous.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434496)

Yes, I've noticed that the Chinese population in Denver does tend to be a little short in stature.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434544)

Biggest problem I see is the (a) 2 dipshits who are behind the stop line turning left after the red, thereby (b) blocking the advance left turns on the cross street, which leads back to (a) again, etc. Turn the cameras on and ticket those assholes first!

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434568)

I'd actually want to see a very clear causal link between longer yellows and safety increases, because my gut tells me longer yellows would make people ignore them even more.

From the article: City traffic engineer Brian Mitchell said fewer crashes are being recorded at intersections where photo-red-light enforcement has been set up and where yellow-light clearance time has been lengthened.

unclear parsing (2)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435180)

either or both?

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434696)

In rush hour traffic, which is the bulk of vehicles moving around, you are travelling at the speed of your lane and you probably can't keep a safe breaking distance, like you can on a midday traffic situation. As soon as you drop back, some bastard will bounce in and steal your breaking space. Short yellows mean people slamming on their anchor, particularly when a normal car is stuck behind taller SUVs, trucks and buses. BANG!

Now the solution to this is pretty easy. Yellow lights should not be different periods, which they can be on the same stretch of road, and seeing as most have been swapped out (at least everywhere I travel) with LED arrays, they merely need to display a number counting down per second for the yellow. Everyone can see how long they have, and drive accordingly.

They have this for pedestrian crossings, which don't always change the traffic signals consistently. I drive by one that will stop the traffic on reaching zero, but then the next one up has a 2 or 3 second gap between changing the signals.

A longer yellow means those that can see them know a red is coming and can reduce speed gracefully. The vast majority of red light accidents are people doing heavy breaking in rush hour.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434754)

Three cars go through on the yellow. doesn't everyone know this?

short yellows difficult during ice storms (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435086)

We had ice-packed roads in Denver last night again. It is not possible to break in three seconds without skidding, especially in a vehicle without fancy electronic brakes. You either have to drive rather slowly- 25 mph or less. Or go through the red light. I do some of both.

What helps a lot is 80% of the light have pedestrian countdowns, which at zero go to yellow. (some states go to red at zero) I can decide to start braking if the countdown is in single digits.

Re:Are yellows in Denver really short? (4, Informative)

alexo (9335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435168)

I'd actually want to see a very clear causal link between longer yellows and safety increases, because my gut tells me longer yellows would make people ignore them even more.

For the Google-challenged:
http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/02/243.asp [thenewspaper.com]
http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/28/2887.asp [thenewspaper.com]

You can find more.

even without turns as an issue... (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435214)

even without turns as an issue, sometimes you don't have enough time to break smoothly, but you don't have enough time to run the yellow either. depends on where you are when the light changes
that distance seems like it would be different depending on the yellow light timing, but the factor would still be there.

Changed my mind (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434170)

I used to think the intersection camera were a good idea. However, I changed my mind once a I listened to a local police chief explain that in his city traffic accidents had actually risen at the intersections where the cameras were in use. Folks would brake suddenly when they saw the camera causing the vehicle behind them to rear-end them. Once he said that I knew he was right. People would do that.

The cameras are a good idea in theory, but the real-world unintended consequences are too costly.

Re:Changed my mind (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434226)

Perhaps the increase number of such crashes will educate those few extra people into not following the car in front at a distance of just 0.5cm, not distracting themselves with their radio, cigarette, makeup application etc. or... heaven forbid... perhaps taking another form of transport instead.

Re:Changed my mind (5, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434432)

Folks would brake suddenly when they saw the camera causing the vehicle behind them to rear-end them.

Nothing the driver in front of you does should result in you crashing into him. That is why there is a two second rule for following, and laws against tailgating. Ive had someone yell at me because they hit me when I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a line of cars. Guess what, she lost that battle when they admitted I was in front of them, and she admitted that she only had half a second to respond.

Re:Changed my mind (4, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435232)

But knowing that drivers do what they do, are you willing to risk a collision (and your safety, along with your passengers' safety) when you see someone is following too closely? Or would you risk the ticket? What if the person behind you is underinsured?

You're right legally. But legality != reality.

Re:Changed my mind (4, Informative)

Misch (158807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434634)

Was it Washington, DC?

Source [washingtonpost.com]

The [Washington] Post obtained a D.C. database generated from accident reports filed by police. The data covered the entire city, including the 37 intersections where cameras were installed in 1999 and 2000.

The analysis shows that the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled, from 365 collisions in 1998 to 755 [in 2004]. Injury and fatal crashes climbed 81 percent, from 144 such wrecks to 262. Broadside crashes, also known as right-angle or T-bone collisions, rose 30 percent, from 81 to 106 during that time frame.
.
.
.
The results were similar or worse than figures at intersections that have traffic signals but no cameras. The number of overall crashes at those 1,520 locations increased 64 percent; injury and fatal crashes rose 54 percent; and broadside collisions rose 17 percent.

Overall, total crashes in the city rose 61 percent, from 11,333 in 1998 to 18,250 last year.

Both (5, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434194)

Long yellows to give everyone a chance to stop, and red light cameras to catch the bastards who don't take that chance.

Even Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434488)

Long yellows to give everyone a chance to stop, and red light cameras to catch the bastards who don't take that chance.

Even better would be new traffic lights that have a digital countdown display that shows motorists how many seconds are left before each light changes in the first place.

Re:Even Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434610)

This. Maybe not for the yellow as that would encourage abuse, but definitely for the green. Personally I love intersections with countdown timers on the crosswalk - a quick glance and you know if you need to be keeping a close eye for that last-moment light change or can dedicate your attention to the actual traffic around you.

Re:Even Better (2)

Total Cult (884224) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434762)

In some cases, though, this is not pre-set.

Particularly here in the UK, a lot of traffic lights have (possibly capacitive) sensors buried in the road which detect the traffic passing over them. Lights will cycle early if no traffic is detected passing through a green, and/or if traffic is detected waiting at a red, especially at night when there is less traffic. That makes it hard to know in advance when they're going to change.

Another 2c from me: yellow times should depend on the speed limit.

Re:Even Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38435164)

not sure about the setup you're refering to but magnetic sensors burried under the road are typically used for automated barries and such.

Re:Even Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38435230)

I think a count down for how long the yellow will stay yellow would be sufficient.

Re:Even Better (2)

Garybaldy (1233166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434870)

All the new fancy crosswalks with countdown timers for the pedestrians do exactly that. It allows me and others (i assume) to see how long before the light turns yellow. Allowing me to make better judgments.

Re:Even Better (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434992)

Traveling through intersections in Beijing is an exercise in creative insanity. The pathings people follow seem to be made up on the spot, and don't follow the rules as laid down in the driver's manual that I have read. The one thing they did get right is putting countdown timers for the red and green lights on the worst intersections and you can generally figure things off the pedestrian timers when there isn't one for the drivers.

Now if they could just do something about the fact that red symbol plates are legally allowed to ignore all the rules...

Re:Even Better (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435262)

Mod parent up. I've also seen in other countries a flashing green signal that warns you that the signal will turn yellow soon, giving the driver more time to make a decision.

Re:Both (1)

MacDork (560499) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435058)

Long yellows to give everyone a chance to stop, and red light cameras to catch the bastards who don't take that chance.

Longer red in both directions to make sure the intersection is clear before allowing the next lane to move. No cameras. Getting a ticket in the mail 2 months after the fact won't change "the bastard's" behavior. Being stopped by a cop will change "the bastard's" driving behavior almost instantly and for an extended duration. This is especially important if "the bastard" has been drinking.

Just Politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434208)

This report is entirely political. Its clearly a response to complaints from motorists caught by the red light. That doesn't mean hiring a private company to police stoplights for a profit is a good idea.

The problem with "longer yellows" as an alternative to enforcement is that it really works only when it means "longer than normal". If you make all yellow lights longer that becomes the new normal and motorists adapt over time to assume they can run the yellow. Then, the safety benefit disappears.

or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434224)

"prove a public-safety benefit. *"

*or enough revenue to ignore any scientific evidence.

Re:or.. (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434326)

At least it is a number.

Most projects, most laws in general, are sold via some hand waving and appeals to emotion. At this point anything quantatative is a step in the right direction.

Already done. (2)

Trubadidudei (1404187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434240)

Some science has already been done on this subject, and it suggests red light cameras actually increase the rate of accidents. If i remember correctly it was even covered previously on slashdot.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311151159.htm [sciencedaily.com]

Guess the person(s) / corporation who sold this idea to the decisionmakers were not so keen at looking at what had already been established.
Also, I posted the full link as I don't know how to "linkify" a word, and could not find a guide anywhere. I'm a med student and not a programmer. Please, have mercy.

Re:Already done. (1)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435040)

The article claims that drivers are hitting the brakes instead of running the red light when they notice there is a camera. Reasonably those people would adjust and slow down when approaching a red light if the probability of it being camera monitored was high enough. Having to abruptly brake is uncomfortable for the driver (which running a red light is not, unless you get caught) so it makes sense that the driver would try to avoid that situation in the future.

I don't care about saftey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434244)

Red light runners are selfish assholes who are trying to get a head by disobeying the rules that the rest of us follow. They should face some consequences for their actions.

Let's not let standards slide even further.

Re:I don't care about saftey (1)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435210)

I agree with you in principle. But red light cameras have been shown to increase accident rates. I don't want to punish someone at the expense of injuring someone else and increasing the problem the enforcement action was meant to solve.

There are also some people who are sociopaths and blow through orange and red lights. There are other people who just have a bad day and think they can't stop safely when the light changes yellow, and whether it was misjudging distance and speed or a short yellow, end up entering on red. That is annoying to others, but not truly dangerous.

A possible resolution would add some fraction of a second delay after the red turns but before the red light camera started firing. Or disable the red light camera flashes and deal with the fact that sometimes you wouldn't be able to read the license, or use a UV flash, so people can't see them activate.

why are some tickets based on NFL style reviews (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434256)

why are some tickets based on NFL style reviews and people some times get tickets that a REAL cop would not give out?

You want improvement...? (2)

Atomus (2500840) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434288)

Start putting timers on the yellow and green lights. I've been saying this ever since I starting to see cities put timers for crosswalks. Timers on traffic lights will help people know when that sucker is going to turn red. I run yellows all the time because some seem to last forever, while others flash for a brief second then its red. If I'm coming up on a light, with only 2 seconds left on a yellow, I'm more likely to slow down and stop for the red.

Re:You want improvement...? (2)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434486)

Start putting timers on the yellow and green lights.

Back when I was a lad there were several sets of traffic lights near where I lived that consisted of a single clock hand spinning around a disk that was segmented into red, yellow and green sections. So the driver always knew how much time was left in each part of the cycle. The only problem with this scheme is that it can't be adapted to changing traffic patterns - unless of course you make the dials out of the same technology as the video billboards.

Re:You want improvement...? (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435006)

Most lights are timed. Watch the "walk" sign on the intersection: when it changes to a flashing "don't walk," that means the light is going to turn yellow in the next 15-20 seconds. When it changes to a solid "don't walk," the light usually turns yellow within one or two seconds.

Re:You want improvement...? (1)

Imagix (695350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435226)

If you're coming up on a light that is already yellow, you should be stopping, not thinking "Hey, I can squeeze that yellow." You should also be thinking exactly where the (imaginary) line is that marks the point of no return where you cannot stop for the intersection. Before that line, you stop. After that line, you ignore the traffic light, you can't stop anyway. (And if you could, then you're misjudging where that line is to begin with.)

easy to prove (1)

a2wflc (705508) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434324)

The summary didn't specify "traffic safety", so

1. red light cameras increase revenue (that's their purpose, so if they can't prove that, get rid of them)

2. more revenue means they have to lay off fewer police officers (easy to fudge some books and threaten layoffs to "prove" this)

3. more police officers result in better public safety (use Biden's quote about fewer officers means more rapes and murders)

Re:easy to prove (1)

SirGeek (120712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434466)

The summary didn't specify "traffic safety", so

1. red light cameras increase revenue (that's their purpose, so if they can't prove that, get rid of them)

2. more revenue means they have to lay off fewer police officers (easy to fudge some books and threaten layoffs to "prove" this)

3. more police officers result in better public safety (use Biden's quote about fewer officers means more rapes and murders)

3.5 The Police officers can be used for more "high profit" crimes like arresting drug dealers and users.

Law and Regulation? (4, Insightful)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434348)

As a EU citizen I understand americans hate regulations. But would this not be a thing that should be covered by law? I mean ... what the fuck? In your country a city can decide how long the traffic light is yellwo, that sounds pretty retarded to me.
In germany the duration of yellow depends on the speed limit of the affected road.

Re:Law and Regulation? (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434658)

As a EU citizen I understand americans hate regulations. But would this not be a thing that should be covered by law? I mean ... what the fuck? In your country a city can decide how long the traffic light is yellwo

(I know I will probably be modded into oblivion for this) As a foreigner living in the US I know exactly where you are coming from. This place takes parochialism to the extreme. From bottom to top its city vs county vs state vs federal. Everything is focussed on the smallest possible sphere of influence rather than looking at the bigger picture - which creates the situation where traffic laws are controlled (capriciously) by the local community rather than adhering to well thought out standards. Its the whole "we want to be free and do what we want to do without being controlled by someone else" mindset. I'm not going to say that this mindset is always bad, but it does leave you scratching your head over things like locally controlled yellow light times. One of my favourite examples of parochialism is that years ago I saw a letter in the Pittsburgh paper complaining that the team members of the Pittsburgh Steelers were denying the city of Pittsburgh valuable tax dollars by having the temerity to reside in county rather than in the city itself.

Re:Law and Regulation? (1)

Misch (158807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434784)

Technically speaking, it should be based on observed speed of people traveling on the road. However, standards have been weakened over time such that yellow light timing can be based on the speed limit rather than real-world speeds.

Source [thenewspaper.com]

The 1994 ITE "Determining Vehicle Signal Change and Clearance Interval" states:
When the percentage of vehicles that entered on a red indication exceeds that which is locally acceptable, the yellow change interval may be lengthened (or shortened) until the percentage conforms to local standards, or enforcement can be used instead.

There's a better analysis of how signal timing standards have been changed in the link.

Bottom Line (1)

speedlaw (878924) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434356)

If this technology/enforcement mechanism COST money NO ONE would install it. Private Law Enforcement...What could go wrong ?

This has nothing to do with "the corporation". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434372)

It has everything to do with turning tickets - what should be an occasional activity to punish the occasional wrongdoer - into vital revenue streams for the local government. systems don't pay for themselves, so of course you skim some time off the yellow light to trap peopl into blowing through the intersection.

This has freakonomic elements all over it. Are the drivers incentivised to run a light knowing they will at worst maybe get tagged by a camera, and not pulled over by a cop and have to wait out the ticket writing, and maybe subjected to a search of their vehicle? In assigning a cost to the action you are creating a class of people who will sail through the yellow lights, having accepted the level of risk assigned to the act. Not just that but the reduced yellows anecdotally (!= evidence) associated with the cameras will trick people into blowing through the intersection - or jamming on the brakes to avoid the ticket. Which isn't a good recipe when the car behind them is ready to gun it through the same intersection.

Hmm summary editorializing (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434376)

My reading of the stats in the TFA is that the rate front to side impacts have decreased 5 times for read light cameras compared with a rate decrease of less than 2 for yellow light extension. Being T-boned at an intersection by a red light runner is far more dangerous than being rear ended by someone not stopping soon enough because they didn't see the light change. So I'd hardly call the change in accident rates a "little difference". Sure injury reduction has been about the same and front to rear is slightly better for the yellow light extension, but I'd hardly call that conclusive.

It astounds me that in the US red light cameras are so reviled. I am continually scared when facing a green light at an intersection and then having some one drive through the red light from my left to right. These people are trying to kill me. So supporting a system that lets them get away with it is nonsensical.

Longer Yellows (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434394)

I can believe that giving a subset of the lights in one city a longer yellow would reduce accidents, for those particular lights. However, the key question is what happens when you adjust *all* the yellow lights in a city. My experience says that people generally time yellow lights, and try to get away with getting through just as the lights turn red. If they're uniformly longer, people will just keep going for a few more seconds of yellow.

Lengthening yellows encourages bad behavior (3, Insightful)

stomv (80392) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434412)

According to the law*, a yellow light is to be treated as a red light *if* the vehicle can safely stop. Only if you can't safely stop at a yellow are you to proceed.

Naturally, if folks are driving the posted speed limit, it's far easier to stop at a yellow, because stopping distance increases quite a bit when your speed goes from 30 mph to 35 to 40 to 45. We can bicker about speed limits on the interstate all day long, but local road speed limits are much more important to get right, because you've got pedestrians, cyclists, autos pulling in and out of driveways, right on red at intersections, etc. Stopping distance is really important. Do a better job enforcing local speed limits, and you'll find that folks are less likely to drive through a yellow (or "orange") light, improving safety for everyone.

The other part is this. Plenty of folks treat a yellow as green. Always. Lengthen the yellow, and folks get a feel for the longer length... and will continue to just plough through it as if it were green. Once folks re-calibrate, you've got a worse situation, because people will see a yellow and be even more inclined to accelerate.

There's no need to lengthen the yellow. We need to enforce local speed limit laws.

  * all vary state to state, but this is generally speaking the case

Re:Lengthening yellows encourages bad behavior (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434554)

You seem to be basing your conclusions on your own intuitions, rather than on statistical data. The auditor mentioned in the summary cites actual observed factual data that correlates longer yellows with fewer accidents.

Reason is fine, but fact is finer.

Why? (4, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434446)

From the article it appears that the number of injuries at the intersection have actually declined since the introduction of the red-light camera. Front-to-side collisions are down and these are caused by the driver running the red light. These collisions are more dangerous than the front-to-rear collision since the vehicle directly enters the passenger area at a potentially higher speed.

Rear-to-front collisions are caused by the driver tailgating and these in general are due to him not being able to stop in time and the collision are at a much lower speed and do not directly enter the passenger compartment. The data provided in the article reenforces this hypothesis since there were 53 injuries prior to the cameras installation and only 18 afterwards. This is despite the gain of 1 front-to-rear accident.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38435120)

The fact that vehicles in general are getting safer could have something to do with this.

Red-Light Cameras are all about the $$$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434480)

I live in an area with many red-light cameras and the yellows are noticeably shorter than they should be. Basically if you're going the speed limit and the light turns yellow you either have to decide if you're within say 20 feet of the crosswalk and either press the gas or slam on the breaks to stop in time; the appropriate yellow-light time should be a function of the speed limit (distance covered/sec), reaction time, and the intersection span with the summation of those being used as a basis...which they are not. Besides, approximately 70% of the money generated goes to an out-of-state company. To me this is the same thing as privatizing law enforcement which is against the law as this creates a conflict of interest in that the corporation's primary goal is making $$$, not in protecting the public. Of course the company might say that their revenue stream is directly associated with the quality of their service; however, since the municipality is also benefiting, albeit at a much lower rate, you essentially have both the law-maker and law-enforcer both benefiting at the expense of public safety and people just trying to get by. I think it's criminal and will most likely be appealed to a higher court which will hopefully deem it illegal. When did our governments become some lazy and show such a lack of basic wisdom.

A recent example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434512)

Los Angeles, if i heard correctly, recently abandoned their red light program after finding that it caused more accidents, in the form of rear-enders, than it stopped. If a city that size cannot be used as a valid example of the effectiveness or not of red light cameras then I don't know what other study can be considered valid.

To Improve Safety at Stop Lights ... (3, Insightful)

Wingsy (761354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434514)

How about increasing the delay between red in your direction to green for the cross traffic, so if someone does run the red there will be a couple extra seconds before cross traffic starts to flow.

While we're at it let's remove what I call "Stupid stoplights", that do nothing but waste gas. How many times have you sat at a red light with NO cross traffic for 30 seconds or more.

And this is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38434534)

.. I take my blimp out for a float whenever I am out on the town.
Bitches love blimps.

Here come the quotas.. watch out (4, Interesting)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434616)

"I need eight less accidents on 67th and Anderson, 15 less on Main and Second and a ten percent drop in the Joensboro distrcit over all". Get out there and make it happen or there are going to be career repercussions "

Inevitably these are the words that will issue from some Superior Officer's mouth each morning so they can "prove" that red light camera improve safety even around the areas they're installed where there are no cameras.

And what follows is destroyed and distorted paperwork, reclassification of incidents, motorists NOT being issued tickets on certain roads, people being "let go" and individuals involved in accidents being encouraged to "work it out between yourselves so it doesn't go on your record".

We KNOW what happens when police are under pressure to produce downward statistics in crime each year, or in this case downward statistics for accidents. Policing becomes less professional and more third-worldy, even criminal.

Some examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3mmuZsHmv8 [youtube.com]

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/13/ex-nypd-cop-we-planted-ev_n_1009754.html/ [huffingtonpost.com]

It's not what the cops want to do, it's what well-intentioned people who think policing should be subject to the same kinds of productivity and performance metrics that other industries are subject to inadvertently cause.

Telling cops they need to produce such and such numbers for this and that reason is a stupid idea who time has never existed in the first place. Telling them they need to prove by stats that the camera improve intersection safety is a big mistake.

The way to work this is to let them do what from their experience they feel will work and have the insurance companies by law turn over their statistics to the government or the universities who then data mines it on an ongoing basis to see what works for traffic safety and what doesn't and what's trending and what isn't.

Don't make the source of the data also the beneficiary of the data when it leans a certain way. Also don't punish them when it leans some other way.

The police don't cause crime so it's not theirs to reduce year over year. Society causes crime, the economy causes crime, bad parenting and poor family environment causes crime, lousy neighborhoods cause crime. Not policing.

The vast majority of police forces do what they can in the best way they've learned how and results are really pretty good in most areas. But the lions share of the credit or blame goes to the population who either is or is not inclined to follow the law in the first place.

Squeezing departments to produce numbers is a sure fire way to have them enact a quota system which is a sure fire path to corruption which is a sure fire path to contempt for cop on the part of the citizenry which is a sure fire way to increase crime as the years go by.

We need to do everything we can to produce and maintain a justice system that honorable and equitable and run like hell from anything that tends to corrupt that system.

Aurora (1)

neowolf (173735) | more than 2 years ago | (#38434660)

I hope the Denver suburb of Aurora- which has red light cameras at every major intersection in the city, will do the same. I do everything I can to avoid driving through either city. Besides people slamming on their breaks at every intersection, the camera flashes at night are annoying and dangerous!

Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38435022)

Not about safety, it's about MONEY...

Again, govt cant make money without taking it from someone else.

fewer accidents, but more rear-ends (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38435116)

One of the Denver TV stations (FOX) collected these statistics. The city council has commissioned a study. the increased rear ends are from more sudden-braking.
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