Thursday, May 27, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Fair Warning?
It's probably something most of us have never thought twice about: how long does a traffic light stay yellow before it changes to red? But with red-light cameras being installed all over South Florida this summer, it could be a big issue. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero has this special assignment report: "Fair Warning?"
WSVN -- The eyes in the sky are already here. Traffic cameras mounted at South Florida intersections, strobing away day and night, recording red light violations.
Richard Masone: "I mean, this is what we have police officers on the street for: pulling people over, writing tickets. Why aren't they writing it instead of these cameras trapping people?"
Richard Masone successfully challenged the cameras earlier this year after he got a ticket. But now, a new state law is making the cameras legal. And cities across South Florida are already planning to install more.
Harvey Rosenblatt: "To make money. Just a way of getting revenue."
There's lots of skepticism about the motives, but when the light turns yellow, be ready to stop.
In general, drivers in Miami-Dade and Broward get four seconds of a yellow warning light before the light changes to red. But some experts say, that may not be long enough.
Norman Wartman: "It has to be adequate yellow time."
Norman Wartman is a transportation expert and a member of the National Motorists Foundation. His group recommends longer yellow light times.
The concept: if drivers have more warning to stop, they will run fewer red lights.
Karen Anderson: "Absolutely. I think if they were, like, a little bit longer, like six to eight seconds, that would be even better."
Wartman says, it worked in Virginia.
Norman Wartman: "And they had a 95 percent reduction in people running red lights."
But at Miami-Dade's Control Center, the traffic signal chief disagrees.
Robert Williams, Traffic Signal Chief: "It's been working well for decades."
Robert Williams says, any decrease in red light running would only be temporary until drivers got used to longer yellows.
Robert Williams: "And it also is a disadvantage of increasing rear-end collisions, because one driver will decide to stop when they see the yellow display and another driver behind that person may decide to continue running."
On the other hand, traffic experts say, fear of getting a red light violation may also cause more accidents, because people will jam on the brakes when the light turns yellow.
Miriam Romero: "Fast, they put a yellow, and you must stop. Because I have a terror of the camera taking a picture."
So, it would seem motorists are going to have to be extra careful at intersections, no matter what the length of the yellow lights. The new camera law goes into effect July 1, but it is likely to be challenged.
Ted Hollander, Ticket Attorney: "In our opinion, the law is unconstitutional."
Ticket Clinic Attorney Ted Hollander says, his firm will attack the law on several fronts, including yellow light timing.
Ted Hollander: "The national standard says that the light can be up to six seconds of yellow, and why would we have it a shorter period of time if it's really about safety?"
Carmel Cafiero: "Fair warning or not, supporters of red light cameras insist, they are all about safety. But with millions of dollars to be made, critics contend, these cameras are really all about making money."
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