Arizona Group Forces Red Light Ticket Refund

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

A group campaigning to eliminate photo enforcement in Arizona has forced Paradise Valley to admit that it has been shortchanging drivers. A volunteer with the group discovered the city used illegally short yellows at the intersection of Tatum Boulevard and McDonald Drive. The motorist was mailed a red light camera ticket for allegedly entering the intersection just 0.2 seconds after the light had turned red. “I was nailed with a ticket at an intersection that left me very perplexed because I didn’t think I was going to get a ticket,” David K. wrote on June 16. “I thought I was close enough to the intersection to pass the limit line before the light turned red. Well, I thought wrong because the duration for the yellow light on a 40 MPH speed limit road was only three seconds.”

David measured the other intersection approaches and found they used a four-second yellow. All of the engineering guidelines suggest a bare minimum of four seconds be used at intersections with a posted speed limit of 40 MPH. Wondering why the approach equipped with a camera had the shortest yellow, David called the city. The signal in question was re-timed to a duration of 4.3 seconds of yellow on the very next day. Paradise Valley is required to add the extra 0.3 seconds because of a curve in the road that affects signal visibility.

Another member named Shauna received a ticket while the signal was timed at three seconds.

“I am almost never in Paradise Valley, so was not at all familiar with the road or the length of the yellow lights,” Shauna wrote on June 20. “When I was flashed, I was shocked. I would have had to slam on my brakes — and I was actually driving slower than the speed limit — to stop for the yellow, and then all of a sudden, it was red, and the flash went off.”

Five days later, Shauna received notification that her ticket had been canceled. Altogether, 1063 motorists issued red light camera tickets between May 6 and June 16 will receive refunds if paid or have their citations canceled. Most have not paid. This represents a loss of $193,466 in potential revenue to the city.

The Texas Transportation Institute documented the importance of yellow timing in a 2004 report ( view study). Cutting one second from the yellow time formula endorsed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) boosts violation income by 110 percent. Adding one extra second beyond the bare minimum allowed under the ITE formula slashed violations by 53 percent.

Lawmakers in the state of Georgia recognized the value of longer yellows with a law mandating one extra second. Since it took effect in January, violations plunged 80 percent and profit dropped to a level that has forced seven cities to cancel their photo enforcement contracts.

The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Join the conversation
2 of 7 comments
  • ZoomZoom ZoomZoom on Jun 30, 2009

    In Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and just about everywhere else I've driven, you are considered "in the intersection" once any part of your car crosses the forward plane of the solid "stop bar" painted on the ground. That is, BEFORE the crosswalk lines. Most cops won't write you a ticket for having your bumper overhang the stop bar. But some red-light cameras will!

  • GS650G GS650G on Jun 30, 2009

    If it's all about safety and for the children make the yellow lights 5 seconds, add 1 second of additional red for all directions, and then give the green. Highly unlikely anyone would accidentally be in the precious intersection when the light was in mid stroke. But of course it's once again NOT about safety, it's about 200K in revenue so far. Some people think government should get all the money it can so the people can enjoy services and free shit but when it comes out of the pockets of working people, and sometimes jacks their car insurance rates accordingly, it becomes a bit much. Historically when new increased revenue sources are found there is no economizing but rather new spending is found for the windfall. Next comes the speed cameras and soon license plate recognition and user fees. I think a hinged license plate linked to a solenoid would be handy at this intersection. Upon approach activate the circuit just in case the light changes when you are in the zone. If it stays green, no harm no foul. If not, have a nice picture of bumper balls where the plate should be.

  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!
  • Slavuta More hatchbacks