Florida Red Light Cameras: most short yellow lights in Tampa Bay finally extended to safer intervals

8:07 PM, Dec 24, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Florida - It took seven months from the time the 10 News Investigators first exposed Florida's short yellow lights, but the majority of red light camera intersections in the region have now been fixed.

An early June memo from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) acknowledged 10 News' May findings: the state's yellow light minimums, which had been reduced in recent years, didn't allow many drivers enough time to make safe decisions at intersections.

FDOT also ordered all short yellow lights extended at red light camera (RLC) intersections no later than December 31, but it wasn't until more than six months later that the project is now nearly completion. Several traffic engineers told 10 News the re-timing process is not typically very time-consuming.

TIMELINE: 10 News' Short Yellows Investigation
MAP: Short yellows in your neighborhood

Of the 115 RLC intersections in Greater Tampa Bay, all but one -- Lakeland's Bartow Rd. and Crystal Lake Dr. -- have now been adjusted. Most yellow lights have been extended by approximately 0.4 seconds, enough time to give a driver going 45 mph an extra 26 feet to make a safe decision.

"It's a really good thing," said St. Petersburg's foremost red light camera critic, Matt Florell. "I hope the state doesn't take another seven months to finish the job."

In September, the 10 News Investigators asked tough questions of FDOT, when several cities said they hadn't yet extended their yellow light intervals because the state told them to hold off.  Shortly thereafter, FDOT issued orders to go ahead with intersection adjustments.

But while some municipalities, like Hillsborough County and Clearwater, made immediate changes, some didn't complete their intersection re-timings until mid-December.

Pasco Co. (Dec. 9), Haines City (Dec. 17) Bradenton (Dec. 18), Pinellas Co. (Dec. 19), and St. Petersburg (Dec. 20) all completed their retimings recently, but all five blamed FDOT for not providing updated times any quicker.

Florell estimates thousands of Tampa Bay drivers, accounting for millions of dollars in tickets, have been improperly ticketed because of governmental foot-dragging and not adjusting the yellow lights sooner.

Short yellows will be a topic of conversation in St. Petersburg after the new year as well, as city council will discuss some of 10 News' very first findings on Dec. 9. Councilman Wengay Newton wants the city to refund ticket revenue collected from drivers who were improperly ticketed last spring.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter.

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