Set yellow time before getting red-light ticket?

Research found shortened yellows resulted in more red-light citations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A bill a northeast Florida lawmaker says will bring fairness to red-light ticket enforcement on our roadways is making its way through the state Legislature.

The bill would make the time that yellow light turns to red the same at all intersections with red-light cameras.

Those cameras -- mounted up high at intersections -- are ready to snap a picture of a driver's license plate and send a $158 ticket to the home of the owner of a car going through a red light.

Imagine being able to drive through a red-light camera intersection, knowing exactly how long you have to get across before the light changes. That's the primary  goal of bill proposed by Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville.

"Safety is No. 1 and fairness is No. 2," said McBurney.

McBurney says the idea came to him after hearing reports that some cities were shaving off time from that yellow light before it turns red to increase the number of tickets -- and revenue.

IMAGES: Red light cameras in Northeast Florida

Research done in the Tampa area found that a half-second reduction in the time of a yellow light doubled the number of red-light citations issued.

"The primary purpose actually, overall should be for safety. Not to raise revenue on local governments," said McBurney. 

We went to various red-light camera intersections in Duval and Clay counties to put those yellow lights to the test. While the majority of them gave drivers about 5 seconds, the light on Kingsley Avenue at U.S. 17 in Orange Park turned from green to yellow to red in just 3 seconds -- likely because that street has a lower posted speed limit.

The National Motorists Association Foundation -- an advocacy group -- recommends the minimum duration for any yellow light be three seconds, and increase with the speed limit to a maximum of six seconds.


There are now 24 red-light cameras at 17 Duval County intersections, and a few more in Orange Park and Green Cove Springs. As of mid-October, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office reported more than 16,000 citations were generated by red-light cameras in Duval County.  Channel 4 has asked for updated numbers, and the JSO said they should be ready in a few days.

Some drivers Channel 4 spoke with think knowing exactly how long they have to cross would make the roads safer.

"Yes, because you'll know it's coming. Most drivers that have been driving for a while do time the light," said Joe Xerri.

Others aren't convinced.

"It brings out the aggressiveness of the person. They try to catch up and make the light before the time goes out," said Jerry Sanchez.

McBurney says the bill will likely be assigned to a committee in the next week or two. He hopes it'll be heard next month, just in time for legislative session to begin in March.

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