• Apr 14, 2008
Have you ever hit the throttle when a traffic light turns yellow, and then it turns red faster than you thought? We know it's happened to us, and for the most part we thought the problem was our bad timing. In six cities across these United States, missing a yellow light has less to do with bad timing, and more to do with shorter amber signals.
Six cities have been busted recently for having an amber light that lasted less than the minimum timing at an intersection, and millions of dollars in fines have been collected when drivers went through the premature red and got caught on camera. Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; Springfield, Missouri; Lubbock, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Union City, California all cut the timing on their lights, and while some have paid back the fines, others have not. In Dallas, over $700,000 was collected in a matter of eight months, and in Tennessee the light timing was changed at only a few intersections, which just so happen to be the areas where local law enforcement set up traps.

While the millions of dollars in fines collected in these six cities is horrible, what's worse is that shorter amber lights mean more accidents and more injuries on the road. Hit the link below to read more information regarding the cities that were caught cheating, and if you get pulled over for blowing a red, make sure to time the light. The problem may not be you after all. Thanks for the tip, Thunder!

[Source: National Motorists Association]


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  • 108 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      As a resident of Tennessee, I'm not surprized that 2 cities in this state made the government's of those that shortened the duration of the yellow lights at traffic signals. Memphis should also be there, but wasn't I'm guessing because we don't have a preponderance of traffic cameras...yet. Driving around Memphis I typically notice that the length of the yellow light varies from being long enough to allow just 1 or 2 cars through safely, to being long enough to allow 3.

      I can umderstand that traffic would make it necessary to vary the duration of the green lights, but the duration of the yellow light should be consistent EVERYWHERE in the U.S.A.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Amen. I'm sure you've cut across Germantown Pkwy from the Wolfchase Mall to the other shopping centers and noted the absurd short GREEN light time, which is barely enough for one or two cars to cross from a dead stop; followed by an equally absurd yellow light time.

        Whenever I go through that, I floor it, hard. My engine usually bounces off redline. All so I can make it without running a light.

        There should be no allowed variation. Around 3-5 seconds should be plenty; and keep all the red lights red for about 2-3 seconds afterwards. In Memphis, a lot of people will ignore a red light anyway; which causes many other people to wait for a moment before proceeding; in fear of being smacked.

        Start revoking these criminal cities' grant monies, and fining them, and maybe that will change. I doubt it'll happen though; too many crooks like Herenton voted in, and too much money made by robbing the citizens.
      Chan
      • 6 Years Ago
      There was a stop light with camera at Seatac airport, washington state on 188th st and Military Road right in front the seatac city hall building. The yellow turn turned red in less then 3 second I Noticed seeing camera flashed at other car just hit the white line light go from yellow to red in an instant.

      Another camera at Auburn Way North; City of Auburn, Washington. This light stop located just a half block from Muckleshoot Casino, Indian reservation.
      Last year a tv new reported that City of Auburn made so much money from their red light camera.

      That a Legal way to committed a crime by cities official.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think it's also the case in NY. Some of the lights in Queens with cameras seem to have shorter yellows. I don't think this is an uncommon, although hardly ethical, practice.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm not surprised Dallas is on this list. We have the worst traffic lights in the world. And I think we're second only to Houston for having the worst traffic in the world.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You folks every seen what traffic looks like in Asia? Half the people are ridding on mopeds and bikes and there is no such thing as respect for personal space and they are still jammed up for hours. They would qualify as the worst traffic in the world. As far as the busiest highway goes last I heard that title belonged to Highway 401 in Toronto (for North America at least). 18 lanes of pure gridlock every day.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Your headline is misleading. The cities are accused of having _short_ cycles, not _shortening_ them; there's a enormous difference.

      I live close to one of the lights in Dallas; that intersection had huge problems with people running lights well before the cameras went in.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Reading comprehension, it does wonders.

        This is from the Autoblog summary:
        "and in Tennessee the light timing was changed at only a few intersections, which just so happens to be the areas that local law enforcement set up traps."

        And this is from the actual article:
        "Union City’s traffic engineers admitted that they had set the yellow signal time at Union City Boulevard and Lowry Road at 3 seconds, despite the state law mandating the time be 4.3 seconds or greater."

        So is this:
        "In 2006, Nashville resident Joe Savage obtained the data on every red light running ticket issued on Broadway street since 2000. He said that yellow lights are longer at intersections along Broadway until the areas where police are issuing tickets. At those locations, Savage clocked the yellow signal time at less than 3 seconds, in violation of both state law and federal regulations. A local newspaper, The Nashville Scene, then confirmed his findings."

        Learn to read.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I did read it. You, however, apparently didn't.

        The headline clearly implies that amber signals were shortened in order to increase fine revenues. None of the articles say that. The articles clearly do state that shorter amber timings result in increased fines; Not a single one says that the shorter timings were implemented after the cameras were installed.

        Critical thinking skills … they’re not just for show.
          • 6 Years Ago
          You obviously didnt even read the post you replied to. In the post he points out 3 different occasions stating the times were changed when the cameras were added, OR police were set up.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mike, there is no hope in this world for you with logic that flawed.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mike- no point trying to save face in this. Just admit you are wrong. Everyone else already knows it, and you're not fooling anyone.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "The articles clearly do state that shorter amber timings result in increased fines; Not a single one says that the shorter timings were implemented after the cameras were installed."

        One of the articles clearly states the amber signals were shortened BEFORE red light cameras were installed. Same difference to me.

        "The city of Springfield, Missouri prepared for the installation of a red light camera system by slashing the yellow warning time by one second at 105 state-owned intersection signals across the city. In a 2005 Texas Transportation Institute study, a one-second reduction in yellow time resulted in a 100% increase in the number of violations (Table 6-2). Each violation under Springfield's new system will bring a $100 fine to city coffers after ticketing begins on June 1."

      Ralph Du Bois
      • 6 Years Ago
      Add Poway, California to that list. Intersection camera's go on, yellow light changes quicker.
      • 6 Years Ago
      No surprise to me. Most fine's etc are based on the tax collectors requirements and therefore have little or nothing to do with safety.
      IMA G.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Where I live, they have gone absolutely crazy replacing four-way stops and traffic lights with round-abouts.
      With these, you are supposed to only have to look to your left and if that's clear you can go, but many drivers on my right pull right out in front of me, causing many close calls. I'll take a four-way stop or traffic light any day. Either one is much safer.
      everman187
      • 6 Years Ago
      Are these fines subject to refund as a result of these findings? Seems to me if an individual or individuals defrauded a city, they would be looking to get their money back.
      jack
      • 6 Years Ago
      .....you can add battle creek,michigan to the list of cities that do this........someone needs to check this city out as well.....
      • 6 Years Ago
      I bet even if they didn't shorten the time and gave the minimum city/State time for the yellow, there would still be a high number of accidents and tickets at that intersection. I see it at MOST INTERSECTIONS, EVERY DAY (Detroit), people speed up on the yellow.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I received a ticket from the now infamous corner of US Highway 41 and Windy Hill Rd in Marietta, GA. There has been a lot of gaff in the local news, claiming deliberate short timing as this article is about.

      My experience was worse. I went back and timed the yellow light at about a quarter of a second -- it was just a flash of yellow between the green and the red. When I went to the city to complain, the entire line of people at the ticket window were there for tickets from the same intersection. Similarly, on my day in court, everyone in the courtroom was there for tickets from the same intersection.

      I lost my case because I could not "prove" that the light was timed incorrectly. The DA laughed at the thought that the light could be timed for less than a second.

      I guess it's true what they say about traffic court: "You are considered guilty until proven innocent."

      I am now 0 for 6 in traffic court, all for cases where I was completely innocent (I always paid the fine if I was guilty). I even had two cases where the cop committed perjury in order to get a conviction.
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