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1/4/2011
New Jersey: Camera Town Caught with Short Yellow Times
Glassboro, New Jersey admits red light camera generated $1 million worth of tickets at intersection with short yellow.

Fixing a traffic signalThe first southern New Jersey municipality to issue a red light camera ticket admitted last week that it issued 12,000 tickets worth $1 million at an intersection where the yellow light time was illegally short. At the intersection of William Dalton Drive and Delsea Drive, motorists were given just 3 seconds of yellow warning before the camera began snapping -- as opposed to the 4 seconds mandated by state regulations. Mike Koestler, the former mayor of Harrison Township, caught the error after receiving a ticket.

The camera's private contractor, American Traffic Solutions, issued citations at the intersection's westbound approach, which had the shortened yellow, from March 26, 2010 until October 26, 2010 when the state corrected the signal timing. The borough claimed that the yellow was never lengthened after the speed limit was increased from 25 MPH to 35 MPH in 1993. On December 28, the Glassboro Borough Council met in a closed-door session to discuss a threatened lawsuit over the issue and reluctantly decided not to refund the $85 citations, but to allow motorists to take the time to come to court and ask in person for a legal proceeding to return the money.

"The Borough has a genuine dispute with the state Department of Transportation as to why the timing issue occurred and whether the issue has any effect on alleged violations," Glassboro Prosecutor Timothy Chell said in a statement. "But in the interest of justice, local officials have requested that drivers be afforded the option to have their tickets re-examined."

While a one-second difference in the duration of the yellow warning at an intersection might seem insignificant, the extra margin of safety is critical. The vast majority of red light "violations" happen when drivers misjudge the end of the yellow light by less than 0.25 seconds -- literally the blink of an eye (view Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) chart). In most cases, a yellow shortened by one second can increase the number of tickets issued by 110 percent, according to a TTI report. Confidential documents uncovered in a San Diego court trial prove that the city and its private vendor, now Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), colluded to install red light cameras only at intersections found to have short yellow times (view documents), thereby maximizing profits.




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