Tampa will adjust yellow light lengths, defend current timing

5:53 PM, Jun 20, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, FL -- An exclusive WTSP 10 News investigation into the timing of yellow lights at those red light intersections has generated a lot of questions and, in some cases, big changes.

Tampa is the latest city to look into it.

At a workshop Thursday, traffic officials said the city has never done anything wrong, at least not intentionally. And they say information revealed in the 10 News special report has more to do with math than maliciousness.

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

Regardless, the city says it will change the yellow light timing at its red light intersections by the end of the year. But not, they say, because of us.

10 News Investigators first broke the story that's got cities and counties re-timing the yellow lights at intersections around the state. The report has revealed the amount of time it takes for traffic signals to go from yellow to red is, in many cases, shorter than what state or federal standards allow.

Shorter yellow light intervals could possibly lead to more red light tickets.

Jean Duncan, Director of Tampa's Traffic Department insists it's not intentional.

"We have not gone and reduced any yellow timings at any of the intersections that have cameras on them," she told council members at Thursday's city workshop.

Traffic officials denied any conspiracy, but they admitted Tampa's yellow light interval of 3.9 seconds is less than 4 seconds allowed by FDOT.

It's a matter of math, say officials, rounding down a fraction of 3.93333 rather than up.

"That does not mean we're below the minimum, that does not mean we're not in compliance," said Duncan.

The question, of course, is why not make the yellow lights last longer if it's not just about collecting more money?

Even a report last month from the state's chief traffic engineer suggests a .4 second increase at intersections is warranted.

That small difference, could, perhaps, be the difference between getting a red light camera citation and not.

Tampa police, who say the cameras are working to reduce traffic accidents, reminded us there's only one certain way to avoid the ticket.

"If you stop for the light you're not gonna get a ticket," said Sgt. Carl Giguere.

When 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky recently confronted Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn about the issue, the Mayor was less than receptive.

"There's no reluctance," said Mayor Buckhorn, "I just have a real job to do, Noah."

It turns out the same FDOT standards cited in the 10 News report are about to be adopted statewide. 

So while Tampa denied any wrongdoing and blasted 10 News for suggesting drivers are being cited unfairly, they concede they will, in fact, be changing the yellow light timing at each and every one of the city's intersections in coming months.

They'll start with the city's 20 red light camera intersections, "and make sure the .4 gets added to those signals by December," said Duncan.

The several hundred remaining intersections will be adjusted by July 2015.

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