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New Jersey Municipality Admits To Illegally Short Yellows

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On: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 4:55PM | By: Clay Ritchings

New Jersey Municipality  Admits To Illegally Short Yellows

Mike Koestler, the former mayor of Harrison Township, caught the same southern New Jersey municipality using illegally short yellow light times after receiving a ticket 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.

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. Harrison Township, the first southern New Jersey municipality to issue a red light camera ticket, admitted last week that it issued 12,000 tickets worth $1 million. 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.

I understand that the money-grubbing municipalities are reluctant to make it too easy to get a refund, but when the tactics used to generate the citations are illegal, should it not be mandatory that they refund the money? I remember going to traffic court long ago and hearing the judge tell the person in front of me that “Ignorance was no excuse for the law” when they tried to tell the judge that they “Didn’t Know” about the law that they broke. As far as I am concerned, not knowing that the yellow light times were incorrect is no excuse. Forcing citizens to take time out of their days to go to a hearing and state their case to someone other than a judge in a setting other than a real court is not right.

The vast majority of red light “violations” are for right turns on red or going over the white line, but if you are unlucky enough to misjudge the end of the yellow light by less than 0.25 seconds -- literally the blink of an eye, the extra time can make a huge difference—a yellow light shortened by one second can increase the number of tickets issued by 110 percent, according to a Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) report.

For the conspiracy theorists out there; 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, thereby maximizing profits. It should come to no surprise that cameras are being put up at intersections that have the short yellow times, as a matter of fact, cameras all across the country are being jockeyed around to more profitable locations. If the camera is not making enough money doesn’t that mean "Mission Accomplished” and that the intersection is safer? If it’s all about the safety, leave them there.


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