On Thursday, the Lubbock, Texas city council voted to delay installation of red light cameras after a local television station exposed the city’s short timing of yellow lights at eight of the twelve intersections where the devices were to be installed.
“Many folks believe this is a money grab and then we found out through KCBD Television there’s a discrepancy in timing,” Councilman Gary Boren said, as quoted by KCBD.
Earlier this month, the station cited the rule-of-thumb that Lubbock City Engineer Jere Hart asserted as the basis for timing lights at city intersections. At most of the proposed camera intersections, Hart did not follow his own rule.
At 82nd and University, the 50 MPH speed limit suggests the need for a 5 second yellow, but it currently set at just 4.3 seconds. At 82nd and Frankford, the speed of traffic requires 4.5 seconds of yellow, but the public is only given 4.0. Milwaukee and 19th, a 55 MPH intersection, has a 4.4 second yellow when it should be 5.5. Parkway and Zenith has a 2.9 second yellow which is illegal under federal regulations mandating yellow times of no less than 3.0 seconds. Hart admitted the light should be 3.5 seconds.
Last year, before the news investigation, Hart assured city council members that he would not increase yellow times.
“Jere said, if [the red light camera program is] implemented, the public would prefer to have an increased amber cycle, but stated the program will not adjust the amber/yellow time,” the city council’s traffic commission minutes of September 19, 2006 read. “Jere stated enforcement would generate revenue, more so in the initial phase, then most likely receding in subsequent years.”
Short yellows assure a steady flow of red light camera ticket revenue. A Texas Transportation Institute study found that an extra second of yellow time added to the current ITE formula yields a a 53 percent reduction in the number of tickets issued along with a 40 percent reduction in accidents.
In other words, studies show that longer yellow are safer, the public wants longer yellows, and that there’s a formula one can use to deduce the minimum yellow time needed to maximize safety. But the Lubbock city government refuses to heed any of that because doing so would cut into city revenue.