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Chicago Red Light Cameras: Short Yellow Causes More Crashes, More Tickets

First Posted: 05/09/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:45 PM ET

Yellowlight

Red-light cameras certainly aren't the most popular invention. But in Chicago, it's the short yellow lights at many intersections that make the cameras so dastardly, so effective -- and so dangerous.

The short yellow lights drive up revenues from tickets ($64.1 million for the city of Chicago last year), but they also drive up accidents. According to FOX Chicago, a study from Texas A & M found that "adding one second of yellow decreases crashes 35 to 40 percent and violations by 60 percent." Longer yellows give drivers more time to stop, making them both less likely to crash and less likely to be caught running a red.

Yellow lights across the city are timed at exactly three seconds, the exact minimum allowed by state and federal guidelines.

In tandem with the red-light cameras, these short yellows can make drivers hesitant as they approach intersections, and more likely to slam on the brakes when they see a yellow, said Barnet Fagel of the National Motorists' Association. The cameras, he said in an appearance on "Chicago Tonight," are "making people drive under pressure and tension, and having their foot poised over the brake pedal."

Not to mention, he claims that many lights throughout the city actually stay yellow for less than the minimum three seconds. In a YouTube video, Fagel claims to have identified lights around the city where the yellow lights hovers around two-and-a-half seconds.

Recently, the red-light camera issue, once the domain of policy wonks and griping drivers, has gained traction in Springfield. State Senator Dan Duffy has introduced legislation to do away with the cameras entirely, and Republican Scott Tucker is making the cameras a major issue in his bid for State Rep.

For Tucker, the issue ultimately comes down to one thing: money. "It's a tax presented as public safety," he said. "It takes money out of the citizens' pockets and puts it into the hands of wasteful government."

Fagel of the NMA agrees that the city is more concerned with financial concerns, despite painting the cameras as looking out for drivers. "They're putting more money in catching people than saving people from accidents," he said.

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Filed by Will Guzzardi  |