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Florida: County Drops Right Turn Tickets, Shortens Yellow
Shortened yellows make up for lost right-turn red light camera revenue in Collier County, Florida.

Florida intersection
Florida Governor Charlie Crist last week held two separate ceremonies where he re-signed industry-backed legislation encouraging local governments to install red light cameras (view bill). Although a great victory for localities that have sought for years to have state sanction for their automated ticketing programs, one provision is causing trouble for those long-held plans to cash in. Yesterday, Collier County commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of a motion "to immediately stop issuing citations for right-on-red traffic violations." The move was in direct response to the new statewide camera law.

"A notice of violation and a traffic citation may not be issued for failure to stop at a red light if the driver is making a right-hand turn in a careful and prudent manner at an intersection where right-hand turns are permissible," Florida Code Section 316.0083 will state, beginning July 1.

While the bill appears to leave some room for local officials to declare certain types of right turns subject to a fine by labeling them "not careful" and "not prudent," a judge considering the intent of lawmakers could look unfavorably on this move. The bill's title states that the purpose of the legislation includes "prohibiting the use of such detectors to enforce a violation when a driver fails to stop prior to making a right or left turn."

The prohibition, which Collier County and West Palm Beach now respect, will cost the jurisdictions between 75 and 85 percent of their net revenue, calling into question the ability of the program to generate a profit for the locality. Collier County's solution to this problem was to shorten the duration of yellow lights at intersections with 45 MPH speed limits. The move followed legal action forcing the county to lengthen the yellow time at 35 MPH intersections from 3.5 seconds to 4.0 seconds because the 3.5 second yellow was not allowed under the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) yellow time formula.

"A widely used formula for determining the minimum length of yellow change interval is... known as the 'ITE Formula,'" the Florida Department of Transportation Intersection Design Guide specifies. "A yellow change interval shorter than this will create a potential situation in which the driver may not be able to stop before reaching the intersection or enter the intersection before the end of the yellow as required by Florida Statutes."

The county now says that this formula allows it to shorten the yellow time at the higher-speed intersections from 4.5 seconds to 4.3 seconds, the Naples News first reported. The state guidelines, however, set minimum values, not maximum values. The 0.20 second difference may appear minor on the surface, but the vast majority of all citable violations happen within the first 0.25 seconds a light turns red (view violation chart).

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