South Pasadena Commission backtracks, requests longer yellows at red light camera interections

7:45 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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SOUTH PASADENA, Florida - Backtracking on comments critical of 10 News' coverage of short yellow lights at red light camera intersections, the South Pasadena City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for longer yellow lights.

The tiny city covers just 0.6 square miles in Pinellas County's southwestern corner, but doled out about $2 million in red light camera (RLC) fines last year from four intersections along Pasadena Ave.

However, the numbers could be inflated due in part to yellow light times that are calculated using posted speed limit, instead of drivers' actual speed, which tends to be higher.

Numerous federal studies discourage the use of posted speed limit in yellow light calculations, and a recent report from the National Cooperative Highway Research Panal (page 11 of this PDF) suggests using posted speed limit plus 7 mph or more, which along Pasadena Avenue, would add at least half a second to the yellow light times, currently set to FDOT's minimums.

Other federal standards suggest up to another half-second for areas with lots of older drivers or truck drivers. Short yellow lights can cause more panicked decisions, which can cause more accidents and more RLC citations.

South Pasadena City Commissioners penned a letter requesting from county and state engineers the "highest yellow light time interval allowed by law."

FDOT tells 10 News "requests to use a Yellow Change Interval value not determined by (the posted speed limit) will require a traffic engineering justification, from a Florida P.E., that provides the reason for the request."

South Pasadena commissioners may need a little help from Pinellas County to extend its lights out; the city is so small, it relies on county traffic engineers to maintain its lights. That's why city commissioners requested county engineer Ken Jacobs assist in their request for longer yellow lights.

If Jacobs makes the request on behalf of the city, FDOT has indicated it would approve the "posted speed +7 mph" request -- or potentially greater, depending on which engineering study or rationales were cited.

FDOT also announced a statewide re-timing requirement for all short yellow lights following 10 News' investigation.  The state will add 0.4 seconds to all yellow light minimums to better accommodate the state's older driving population.

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