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State of Florida to increase yellow light minimums following 10 News Investigation into red-light camera intersections

6:57 AM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

TAMPA BAY, Fla. - Following a 10 News Investigation into short yellow lights at red light camera intersections, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will increase the minimum intervals for yellow lights statewide.

FDOT confirmed to 10 News on Monday the agency will add 0.4 seconds to all yellow interval minimums to allow drivers more time to safely react.  Read the letter here.

The directive is going to local agencies this week, allowing them until Dec. 31 to comply with the new regulations at intersections with red-light cameras.  Intersections without cameras need to be adjusted by June 30, 2015.

WATCH: Initial Short Yellows Investigation
TIMELINE: 10 News' Short Yellows Coverage

Research indicates a yellow light that is half-a-second too short can double the number of red light camera (RLC) citations, as well as the revenue they create.

Last year, red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue in approximately 70 Florida communities.  

More than half of every citation goes to the state, with cities, counties, and the camera companies splitting the rest.  In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.

FDOT is making the changes to account for a perception-reaction-time (PRT) of 1.4 seconds, which represents the 85th percentile of drivers' reaction ability.  Previously, engineers were using 1.0 seconds in their yellow light equations.

When 10 News first revealed its investigation to FDOT in April, the agency said it was exploring a 0.3-second increase statewide.  But after the story aired, the agency faced heavy pressure from legislators and other Floridians, and opted for a 0.4-second increase. 

"The function of the yellow change interval is to warn traffic of an impending change in the right-of-way-assignement to provide a safe transition between two conflicting traffic signal phases," wrote Mark Wilson, FDOT's State Traffic Operations Engineer, to engineers across Florida.

"Recent research by the National Cooperation Highway Research Program (NCHRP)...indicates that using a PRT value greater than 1.0 second would encompass the reaction times of a greater proportion of the driver population."

But FDOT still won't mandate local communities use drivers' actual driving speed in calculating yellow intervals, as federal guidelines suggest.  Instead, many RLC intersections will still calculate intervals based on posted speed limits, which are typically lower than drivers' average speed.

Research indicates using posted speed in interval timing can cause more bad decisions and more accidents. 

Florida's new minimums for yellow lights will be closer to federal safety suggestions:

Approach Speed Yellow Interval

25 mph

3.4 sec

30 mph

3.6 sec

35 mph

4.0 sec

40 mph

4.4 sec

45 mph

4.7 sec

50 mph

5.1 sec

55 mph

5.4 sec

60 mph

5.8 sec

65 mph

6.0 sec

 

 

10 News also recently discovered FDOT engineers in other parts of the state reducing yellow light intervals as well.  In Orlando, FDOT's District 1, several intersections were re-timed to write more tickets in 2012 and 2013.  And in Clay County, FDOT's District 2, yellow lights at RLC intersections were improperly reduced in 2010, before the state rules were even changed to allow it.

FDOT tells 10 News that any local municipality that wishes to extend its yellow lights beyond the minimums to better-reflect federal safety guidelines is welcome to.  However, extending yellows likely means fewer citations.  And some officials have expressed more willingness to move to conservative yellow intervals than others

If you'd like to make your elected officials aware of federal safety guidelines currently ignored on most Florida roads, you can forward them this link.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

 

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