Safety concerns or budget padding?

In Tampa Bay, Fla., a special investigation from WTSP 10 News has uncovered a systematic statewide scam to shorten yellow lights, in some areas doubling the amount of tickets issued to drivers for running red lights. The short lights may make Florida more money, but it also makes traffic less safe.

Yellow-light times are calculated by taking into account all of the aspects of an intersection, including driver reaction time and even the slope of the road. In 2010, Florida approved the regulation of red light cameras. Then in 2011 the Florida Department of Transportation changed the way yellow-light times were calculated.

Regulations once required yellow-light times to be determined by either the posted speed limit or the 85th percentile of a driver's actual speed – whichever was greater. Those three words were crossed out a year after red-light cameras law went into effect. Communities then shortened their yellow light times, sometimes by only fractions of a second, but those fractions of a second make a big difference.

"A one-second increase in yellow time results in a 40 percent decrease in severe red-light related crashes," a United States Department Of Transportation study revealed.

Many of the yellow-light times uncovered in Florida are shorter than the federally recommended amount. When one intersection was found to have much shorter yellow lights than legally allowed, the city changed the light times but issued no notice to drivers who were ticketed and refunded no monies.

The story has already causes a stir in the Florida legislature, which has members outraged that their constituents are experiencing unsafe driving conditions just to make an extra buck on roadways.

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