IDOT Opposing Bill To Enhance Traffic Safety?
Senator: Agency Against Longer Yellow Light Times At RLC Locations Despite Proof Of Safety Gains
At least according to Illinois State Senator Dan Duffy (R-Barrington).
That’s the reason Duffy says he introduced Senate Bill 3504–to try to improve the safety of Illinois intersections by adding one second or more of yellow light timing to traffic signals at red light camera locations.
Introduced February 8th, SB 3504, or the One Second For Safety bill, simply mandates municipalities or counties utilizing red light camera enforcement, use nationally recognized standards to determine yellow light timing for an RLC intersection and then tack on an additional second.
But, for some reason, according to Senator Duffy, the Illinois Department of Transportation, a state agency that has overseen impressive reductions in traffic accidents and deaths over the past decade through aggressive legislation, programs and initiatives promoting driving safety, is opposed to Duffy’s bill–despite a dearth of evidence to support such a measure.
“IDOT has come out and opposed the bill for ‘safety concerns’,” says Duffy. “I say that is an outrageous claim considering all studies show increasing yellow light times by one second drastically reduces red light running. I haven’t seen one study that refutes this. It’s mind boggling IDOT would oppose something that improves safety.”
Traffic Research Shows Impressive Results
Red light cameras have always been a very divisive topic.
Mainly because research studies trying to assess the effectiveness of RLC enforcement is pretty evenly split on the subject. Advocates for both sides of the argument routinely cite studies that strengthen their position while downplaying research which undermines their position.
But there’s no such division on the effectiveness of lengthening the yellow light interval at traffic signals. The research is overwhelming supportive of the concept. Studies researching the impact of lengthening the amber interval show reductions in red light running from 30%-92%.
For example, a 2007 study of Philadelphia intersections by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed a 36% decrease in red light violations when longer yellows were employed.
The Texas Transportation Institute did a study in 2004, that according to its authors say, “An increase of 0.5 to 1.5 s(econds) in yellow duration will decrease the frequency of red-light-running by at least 50 percent.”
The “longer yellow” theory seems to hold up in real world practice as well. In late 2009, the town of Loma Linda, CA extended yellow light times on RLC intersections and saw a 92% reduction in red light violations.
Norcross, GA, had nearly the same results with an 80% reduction in red light running after the Georgia General Assembly passed a bill mandating amber intervals at all red light camera intersections be lengthened by one second. Ultimately, the local RLC program was dismantled due to the lack of red light violations because of the change.
And when red light running is reduced, reductions in crashes naturally follow.
A 2002 study by the IIHS “found that injury crashes at urban intersections fell 12 percent after the yellow and all-red traffic signal timing was modified according to ITE (Institute for Traffic Engineers) guidelines.”
So what’s behind IDOT’s opposition?
Duffy believes lobbyists for red light camera companies and municipalities know his bill, if enacted will reduce red light violations and subsequently reduce revenues derived by $100 fines for an RLC ticket.
“It looks like an extremely political move to me,” says Duffy. “Most people think adding one second of yellow is a logical solution. If it drastically improves safety regular people say ‘why not?’.”
City of Chicago traffic lights are set at the shortest federally acceptable level of three seconds, while many suburban intersections usually have four second yellows.
The Illinois Senate’s Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday, March 6th at 4 PM in room 400 of the State Capitol.
At press time, IDOT was still working on generating a response to this story.
Photo credit: Ian Britton and courtesy FreeFoto.com