The Red Light Running Crisis
Is it Intentional?

Office of the Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Red Light Running Scam
May 2001

4. The Fact: Longer Yellow Reduces Red Entry

The Report
1. Something Funny
2. Camera Revenue
3. The Theory
4. The Fact
5. Code Changes
6. Cameras Ineffective
7. Conclusion
8. References

Printed Copy
(200k, PDF format)

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Mesa, Arizona

When yellow times are lengthened at intersections, red light entries plunge. Mesa, Arizona found a 73 percent drop in citations after the yellow light was extended.
Mesa increased the left-turn yellow arrow duration to four seconds, from three seconds, on Nov. 14, after complaints from drivers who felt the time was too short to safely complete their turns. The change was made at 30 intersections with dual left-turn lanes and left-turn arrows. In November, the city issued 1,639 left-turn arrow citations at the six intersections patrolled by cameras. In December, the month after the change, the number fell to 716. In October, the month prior to the change, Mesa issued 2,645 citations. (Arizona Republic, February 6, 2001.)

To most, this decrease in red-light running violations would be most welcome news. But it was not welcome news to the city of Mesa. That's because once yellow signal timing changes were made, the camera went from a money-maker to a $10,000 money-loser. The response of the local bureaucracy was typical:
Meanwhile, the department will propose eliminating the three-tenths of a second grace period that [the camera] allows from the time a light turns red to the time the camera flashes. 'We want to establish a zero tolerance policy for red light running in Mesa,'” [Mesa police Commander Richard] Clore said. (Arizona Republic, February 6, 2001.)

Some of Mesa's red-light cameras are working so well that police are talking about disconnecting them… In some cases, it's only catching one person a day. [Mesa police Commander Richard] Clore said that may be because the city recently lengthened its yellow lights by a second. (Arizona Republic, May 22, 2001.)

Fairfax County, Virginia

Like Arizona, Virginia, has also seen outstanding results from increased yellow times. In testimony before the Kentucky State Senate, IIHS study author Richard Retting reported that, on average, someone runs the red light at US50 in Arlington, Virginia every 12 minutes.

Yet just a few miles down the road at the intersection of westbound US50 and Fair Ridge, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) raised the yellow to 5.5 seconds from 4.0 seconds last summer. Since the change, red light running has almost disappeared at the location.

This is very significant and substantial evidence to show that increased yellow times reduce entries on red at problem intersections.

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