In the increasing furor over the use of red light cameras, a disturbing trend is beginning to emerge.
Several municipal and local governments were discovered shortening the length of yellow lights after installing “traffic infraction detectors,” or red light cameras. This alteration resulted in the length of yellow lights being set below federal guidelines.
In addition, any changes in the length of yellow lights, even half-seconds, can result in millions of dollars of additional revenues by way of fines for violations caught on Red Light Cameras.
This policy change has prompted Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes to act.
Today, Brandes contacted Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad in a letter citing new information “alleges impropriety by several municipal and county governments in the implementation of traffic infraction device programs.”
Brandes intends to examine the changes in yellow light times, as well as collision data on “right-turn on red” violations compared to actual crashes. He says he will also look into contracts for red light cameras between county and municipal governments.
“The potential for adverse impacts on the residents of Florida resulting from the misuse of traffic infraction detectors is a very serious issue that cannot be ignored,” Brandes writes.
“I stand committed to addressing any shortfalls in public policy in this regard, and I look forward to continuing our open dialogue and mutual cooperation as we work toward a policy that best protects the safety of Floridians.”
As reported by WTSP 10 News Investigators, the FDOT quietly changed its position on the interval of yellow lights, directing engineers from both the FDOT and municipalities to make the change at key intersections, focusing on those with Red Light Cameras.
Reducing yellow light times, even by a fraction of a second, can potentially double the revenues from Red Light Camera violations. The 10 News investigations began with a discovery in December of a shortened light in Hernando County which caused a higher-than-normal collision rate.
After airing the story, the station started looking into yellow light timing across the Tampa Bay area.
According to the WTSP website, red light cameras produce more than $100 million in revenue in 2012 from approximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. Cities, counties, and the camera companies divide the rest. In 2013, Red Light Cameras are on pace to generate more than $120 million.