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Union City, CA Caught Trapping Motorists With Short Yellow
Union City, California will refund over $1 million in red light camera tickets after engineer catches city using illegally short yellow.

Union City police
Union City, California has been caught trapping motorists with a yellow signal time 1.3 seconds below the minimum established by state law. As a result, the city is now forced to refund more than $1 million in red light camera fines. The city had mailed out three thousand citations, worth $351 each, since the program started in July.

The city's violation came to light after Dave Goodson, an engineer, received a ticket and realized that he did not have sufficient time to stop before the light had turned red. As a result of his inquiries, Union City's traffic engineers admitted that they had set the yellow signal time at Union City Boulevard and Lowry Road at 3 seconds, despite the state law mandating the time be 4.3 seconds or greater.

According to a report by the California State Auditor, over 77 percent of tickets are given for violations that happen when the light has been red for less than one second. Motorists who do not have sufficient yellow signal warning are faced with a choice of either running a red light, or slamming on the brakes and risking a rear end collision. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that adding an extra second of yellow time can cut accidents by 40 percent.

Authorities explain the yellow was too short long before the cameras were installed, but that no effective system was in place to verify the timing of the traffic signals despite their direct impact on safety.

Article Excerpt:
"It was not intentional. We're not going to let anything hurt the integrity and credibility of this program," [police Capt. Brian Foley] said. "At least it's better to find out now than a year from now."
Source: Traffic signal snafu has city seeing red (Daily Review, 9/25/2005)

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