Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Short Yellow Light
The City of Coral Springs has put the brakes on red light camera tickets at its busiest intersection. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
Sgt. Brad McKeone: "We have decided not to process any more violations related to the red light camera at 441 and Wiles Road."
The trouble is not with the red light camera itself, but with the timing of the yellow light at the intersection.
The Florida Department of Transportation decides how long a light must stay yellow at intersections with red light cameras. Where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour the light is required to stay yellow for at least 4.3 seconds. But the light at 441 and Wiles stayed yellow for only four seconds.
We found in three-tenths-of-a-second traveling at 45 miles per hour, a car can go almost 20 feet. That's the equivalent of more than a full car length in distance. And that can make a big difference when you're talking tickets.
Once Coral Springs was made aware of the mistimed light the city took immediate action.
162 would-be-tickets at $158 each were canceled by police and charges were dismissed in 19 court cases with the city saying it quote: "Cannot prosecute those violations in good faith."
Sgt. Brad McKeone: "Our city attorney conducted a review, and ultimately this is where the problem was discovered, that the county timing was different from what the standard was set for that particular mile per hour zone."
Ticket attorney Ted Hollander filed the motion in court that made the city aware of the timing issues.
Ted Hollander: "They should have been given almost another half-a-second to clear the intersection, and because the light was too short, those people were given tickets when they never should have been."
Alex Koffler's wife was one of those caught at the light.
Alex Koffler: "The yellow light, the timing of the yellow light was so short that it seemed almost impractical and unsafe for her to, you know, properly stop."
The timing of that light was supposed to be increased when the camera was installed in 2011. The DOT says it appears the timing was never changed.
This year alone, 1,628 of Coral Springs 5,000 plus red light tickets came from that camera. So what about the drivers who have paid their tickets?
Ted Hollander: "I can't imagine that the city is going to now refund every single person that's been given a ticket at this intersection. But in my opinion they should."
Coral Springs may not be the only city in trouble. We found short yellow lights at 16 of 19 busy intersections we checked along 441 in Broward.
Alex Koffler: "It seems like a safety issue and I became concerned about it because people, especially elderly people in South Florida, and trucks, big cars, speeding cars, need time to stop safely."
The yellow light at 441 and Wiles was finally changed, just last week to five seconds.
The DOT tells 7News it will be conducting a review especially for intersections with cameras because when it comes to yellow lights timing is everything.
New state requirements this year will increase existing yellow light times by up to a half-a-second. To review the rules of the road:
And if there's something you think Carmel should investigate, give her a call or send an e-mail. The address: email@example.com