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Saturday, April 12, 2008

How long's your yellow?

A reader of ours who's an avid motorist points us to this phenomenon: At intersections where red-light cameras are installed, some cities have the traffic signals set so that the duration of the yellow light that precedes the red is unusually short -- sometimes illegally short.

We go through an intersection with one of those cameras on our way to the freeway. The threat of a ticket causes us to be extra, extra careful not to enter the intersection on the yellow -- sometimes to the point of making a pretty abrupt stop. Cities that game the process with artificially short yellows are bullying more and more people into those short stops, which may be legal but they sure can be dangerous.

Comments (21)

But wait! Isn't it all about the safety?!?

I'm sure the unusually short yellow also encourages people to gun the light with a whole new vigor.

The Hollywood intersection must be a cash cow. It seems that every time I stop there I see one or two other drivers get popped. It's random taxation costumed as automated law enforcement.

I know stopping my Sprinter (over 8500 lbs) on a dime when a light goes yellow is no easy feat. We carry our two scooters inside and have lift on the back. Slowing for green lights (in case they go yellow) tends to infuriate impatient drivers behind us.

It is a dilemma!

Whenever I think I am about to get popped at a photo red light intersection, I gun the engine while covering my face with one hand, flipping a bird with the other and steering with my knee.

I'm wondering if there's something transparent to the naked eye you can spray over your license plate to make it unreadable to the red light cameras. Or, how about old fashion dirt. Also, does having no license plate on the back side make any difference? I think you only have to have one plate, and on the front side.

Also, there are intersections where the only chance you are going to get to make a left turn is after the light turns. Hopefully, the city is not so heartless as to install the cameras at these intersections. But I wouldn't be surprised if the city were do such a dastardly thing.

Isn't there some intrepid signature-gatherer willing to fight for a ballot measure to outlaw these things?

Can it be done? Should it be done? Things like this make me inclined to say yes....

So, what is an "illegally" short duration? The statutes refer to DOT standards, which refer to Institute of Transportation Engineers standards. The recommendation is based upon speed limit and the following formula:"y = t + (85th percentile speed)/(2a + 64.4g) where: t = driver reaction time in seconds (1.0 second is a commonly used value for this parameter) 85th percentile speed is in ft/s a = deceleration rate of vehicles, fps^2 (10 fps^2 is a commonly used value for this parameter) g = grade of approach, expressed as a decimal (ie 2% downgrade = -.02 64.4 = 2 times the acceleration due to gravity."
Good luck using this defense, perhaps a mask, say Dick Cheney.

The "illegally short" thing Im sure comes down to some crazy math formula. But the fact that some cities have been caught making the yellow shorter than it used to be to purposely catch people for revenue is beyond sleaze. And I would not put Portland above something like that.

It is my understanding also that if you are involved in an intersection accident the city will not give you access to the photo's to prove fault.

Guys, no one needs to get these tickets at all. If you form an LLC (trivially easy) to own your vehicles, you *never* get these tickets. I've sped through photo radar van traps on purpose to make the thing go off (I saw the light flash, so I know) and never was mailed a ticket. With a corporation or LLC, there's not a real person they can finger.

If you don't want to do this, then here's another easy solution: If you drive a truck, and your wife drives a sedan (or vice versa), register the truck to her, and the sedan to you. When the gender of the person in the photo does not match the vehicle registration, the ticket gets thrown out.

Or, if you're a guy, you could just buy a long wig and girly sunglasses. Ladies, a press-on mustache might be becoming.

So hard to find that mustache and put it on after the light turns yellow. I think 4 seconds is common for a yellow light. Cut that to 3 sec., and the photo camera revenue goes up significantly. It used to be true, as well, that the camera operator (these things are outsourced, of course) shares the revenue with the city. An interesting corollary: lengthen the yellow, and red-light-running drops off noticeably (along with cash flow).

Great ideas, al! Can I do legal zoom dot com for creating the LLC? Any change in insurance rate?

Here's a nasty variation on the illegally short yellow light: on 39th at Powell, the yellow light usually stays on for a reasonable length of time, but every so often, it just blinks on and off within a second or two.

I thought yellow-light duration was 1.5 second PLUS 1 second for every 10 mph of posted speed limit.

So my car is registered to both my wife and myself. While out of town recently we lent it to our daughter. A few days after we returned my wife got a photo speeding ticket showing my daughter driving. The accompanying letter told her to pay or if she wasn't the driver to notify the court who was driving so they could send them a "warning" letter.

Naturally we ratted out the kid. But I did wonder, putting the question of the dangers of lying to the court aside, do they check drivers license photo's on these things. Could one just lie at the worst cost of seeing say your brother-in-law getting a warning letter? :-)

Greg C

putting the question of the dangers of lying to the court aside,

Let us know when you figure out how to do that.

"Let us know when you figure out how to do that."

And get away with it you mean? No I think I would have to be dumber than a box of rocks to admit that. Of course I would never, never lie to the court in any event.

See I was always taught:

1. Always tell the truth. It's the easiest thing to remember.

2. And always remember the truth you didn't tell them cause sometimes those are the things that can get you into trouble.

3. And of course to never lie to them because it's a b*tch trying to remember the lies you told them and they send you to jail for that.

Greg C


Out here in Japan, red means four more cars (except in Tokyo, where pedestrians invade the entirety of the intersection as soon as the walk signal goes green).

I've actually seen some traffic lights in Tokyo with countdown timers set next to the lights. That way you always know how many more seconds of yellow you have to take advantage of, or red you have to endure.

It would really be fun to watch the bureaucrats squirm If we could somehow tie this to a misuse of federal highway funds.

1.Plead not guilty (cop may be busy and not show-case dismissed since he is only witness)
2.Req change in trial date (incr chance of #1)
3.Req a copy of police report (if they forget to give it to you it is a discovery violation-move to dismiss).

Even if they jump thru all the hoops you, by pleading not guilty and forcing a court date, will cost the State more than they will collect from the fine.
If we all do that they will not be able to afford to take the cases to court regardless of the pravda party line the police give you.

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