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7/5/2013
Virginia: $10 Million Red Light Camera Caught With Short Yellow
Virginia Beach, Virginia intersection makes $10 million off of shortened yellow time.

Great Neck intersectionOne of the most profitable red light camera intersections in Virginia Beach, Virginia has been pulling in millions based from faulty engineering. The automated ticketing machine at the corner of Great Neck Road and Virginia Beach Boulevard generated $10 million worth of red light camera tickets, only to see profits tumble 64 percent when the yellow signal timing was extended by half-a-second in January.

When this particular camera was activated in 2009, the yellow signal lasted just 3.6 seconds. After persistent complaints from the National Motorists Association (NMA), the timing was increased to 4.3 seconds in July 2012. In January 2013, the city was forced to increase the timing once more by 0.5 seconds to meet the new Virginia Department of Transportation signal timing regulations (view memo).

Under the 2007 law re-authorizing red light camera use, photo enforcement intersections must have their yellow timing set according to the methodology of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). NMA engineer J.J. Bahen Jr. points out the city failed to follow the proper standard from the beginning.

"Computer records obtained from the city via public records requests show that, as of January 10, 2013 at 5 PM, the red light camera system had issued a total of 199,463 citations," Bahen said. "Analysis revealed that 51,417 of them would not have been issued had the yellow change intervals been ITE-timed from the outset."

The longer yellows provide only partial relief, as the city and its for-profit vendor Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia have issued 92 percent of the tickets to drivers turning right on red in a perfectly safe manner.

Safety has not been on the mind of Virginia Beach officials, who are working on extending the red light camera contract with Redflex without considering whether the cameras have done anything to reduce accidents. In testimony before the state House of Delegates in January, the city's traffic engineer, Robert K. Gey, promised a comprehensive review of before-and-after accident data by the spring. Now it is not likely to appear before a deal is negotiated with the Australian camera firm.

"Mr. Gey has advised that the anticipated completion date of the study you requested will be late summer at the earliest," city attorney staff member Nancy L. Bloom wrote in an email last week.




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