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California Assembly Committee Votes for Longer Yellow Times
Legislative committee in California passes bill increasing yellow time by one second at red light camera intersections.

Assemblyman Paul Cook
The California Assembly's Transportation Committee yesterday voted unanimously to lengthen yellow warning times at intersections that use red light cameras. The same legislation also reduces the cost of a rolling-right turn automated fine from $500 to $250.

"Assembly Bill 2128 will provide significant financial relief to California motorists who make minor traffic violations by fixing an error that has cost Californians millions of dollars while also improving public safety by reducing accidents at camera-equipped intersections," the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley), said in a statement. "Together, these changes would address the most significant complaints from California motorists regarding red light cameras."

Cook, a retired Marine colonel, is running for the congressional seat vacated by fellow Representative Jerry Lewis (R). His bill strikes at the very heart of automated ticketing programs which rely on right-turn tickets for up to 90 percent of the revenue generated. This could be a problem, as then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed an identical provision cutting the right-turn fines in 2010.

Current Governor Jerry Brown has proved even more supportive of red light camera companies. Last year he vetoed a very minor bill placing insignificant restrictions on photo ticketing programs because it would have served as a financial discouragement to cities to install the devices. The bill had sailed through the Assembly and Senate with only four dissenting votes.

The bill addresses yellow timing in two ways. It corrects the negative impact of a recently adopted law that authorized cities to round down speed limits, and, in effect, shorten yellow times by 0.4 seconds at certain intersections -- both with and without cameras. Minimum yellow times in California are determined by posted speed limits, so a lower limit allows cities to shorten the amount of warning time provided to motorists. Cook's bill requires any city that takes advantage of the rounded-down limit to use the rounded-up speed for the purposes of selecting a yellow time. Cook's bill also follows the lead of Ohio and Georgia by mandating longer yellows at all photo enforced intersections.

"At an intersection at which there is an automated enforcement system in operation, the minimum yellow light change interval shall be established at one second beyond the yellow light change intervals as designated pursuant to the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), or its successor," AB 2128 states.

Tickets would not be valid unless the yellow time was set in accordance with the law. The Texas Transportation Institute concluded in 2004 that adding an additional second to the ITE minimum yellow yielded 53 percent reduction in violations (view report). This is so because the vast majority of violations happen within the first 0.25 seconds after the light changes (see chart).

A copy of AB 2128 is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Assembly Bill 2128 (California Legislature, 4/9/2012)

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