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Illinois DOT Opposes Intersection Traffic Safety Bill
Illinois state senator upset at state government opposition to bill extending yellow time at photo enforced intersections.

State Sen. Dan Duffy
By The Expired Meter

Illinois State Senator Dan Duffy (R-Barrington) says he introduced Senate Bill 3504 to try to improve the safety of Illinois intersections by adding one second or more of yellow light timing to traffic signals at red light camera locations. The "One Second For Safety" bill mandates municipalities or counties utilizing photo enforcement use nationally recognized standards to determine yellow light timing for a camera enforced intersection and then tack on an additional second.

According to Senator Duffy, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), a state agency that has overseen impressive reductions in traffic accidents and deaths over the past decade through aggressive legislation, programs and initiatives promoting driving safety, is opposed to his bill -- despite a wealth of evidence to support such a measure.

"IDOT has come out and opposed the bill for 'safety concerns,'" said Duffy. "I say that is an outrageous claim considering all studies show increasing yellow light times by one second drastically reduces red light running. I haven't seen one study that refutes this. It's mind boggling IDOT would oppose something that improves safety."

Traffic Research Shows Impressive Results

Red light cameras have always been a very divisive topic. Research studies trying to assess the effectiveness of automated ticketing is pretty evenly split on the subject. Advocates for both sides of the argument routinely cite studies that strengthen their position while downplaying research which undermines their position. There is no such division on the effectiveness of lengthening the yellow light interval at traffic signals. Studies researching the impact of lengthening the amber interval show reductions in red light running from 30 percent to 92 percent.

For example, a 2007 study of Philadelphia intersections by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed a 36 percent decrease in red light violations when longer yellows were employed. The Texas Transportation Institute did a study in 2004, that according to its authors found, "An increase of 0.5 to 1.5 (seconds) in yellow duration will decrease the frequency of red-light-running by at least 50 percent."

The "longer yellow" theory seems to hold up in real world practice as well. In late 2009, the town of Loma Linda, California extended yellow light times at red light camera intersections and saw a 92 percent reduction in red light violations. Norcross, Georgia found an 80 percent reduction in red light running after the Georgia General Assembly passed a bill mandating amber intervals at all red light camera intersections be lengthened by one second. Ultimately, the local red light camera program was dismantled due to the lack of red light violations because of the change.

As for the source of IDOT's opposition, Duffy believes lobbyists for red light camera companies and municipalities know his bill, if enacted, would reduce red light violations and subsequently reduce revenues derived by $100 fines for a photo ticket.

"It looks like an extremely political move to me," says Duffy. "Most people think adding one second of yellow is a logical solution. If it drastically improves safety regular people say 'why not?'"

City of Chicago traffic lights are set at the shortest federally acceptable level of three seconds, while many suburban intersections usually have four second yellows. IDOT did not offer a response to this story by press time.

Detailed coverage of Chicago motoring issues can be found at The Expired Meter.

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