Almanac

Viewpoint - May 29, 2013

Letter: Seeking more yellow for red light cameras

The following letter was sent to Sgt. Sharon Kaufman of the Menlo Park Police Dept.

When we talked last week I said extending yellow light times would reduce red light running whereas massive enforcement does not and will not accomplish this primary goal except for an initial period of time. Mark Riggs of Redflex said pretty much the same thing.

I call your attention to the signal light at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road. In July of 2010 the yellow light for the left turn lanes was extended from 3.0 to 3.5 seconds to allow motorists who approach at speeds far above 25 mph enough time to recognize the change to yellow and to come to a complete stop.

And what have been the results of this seemingly insignificant change?

With the short 3.0 second yellow, violations averaged 213 per month for the 12-month period before the change. After the change? Violations in the 27 months following the change averaged only 80 per month. In fact, the average would have been even lower, 64 per month, had there not been nearly triple the number of violations in three of the last four months in the study period.

Throwing out the months of June, July and August of 2012, when violations tripled, Menlo Park experienced a 70 percent reduction to red light running at this location.

You steadfastly insist there will be a rebound effect. There has been none so far. If you can spot one, please let me know. It has been nearly three years. Still waiting?

Let's not lose sight of the fairness issue. What of those 2,000-plus motorists who were needlessly cited for being one-half second late or less before the change was made? Tickets with fines and fees exceeding $1 million have been paid? What were they guilty of? Being human? Having normal reaction/perception reaction times? I would say they were obeying Newton's laws which say objects moving at higher rates of speed need more time to stop.

One last thing: What would account for the tripling of violations in June, July and August of 2012?

Roger Jones, organizer, Red Light Camera Protest Group

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