BRADENTON, Fla. - The 10 News Investigators have identified more short yellow lights at intersections with red-light cameras. A pair of traffic signals operated by FDOT in Manatee County were altered in 2012, just before red-light cameras (RLC) were installed there.
The 10 News Investigators first broke the story of how FDOT had quietly reduced its minimum yellow light intervals statewide, then followed it up by re-timing lights - in particular those with red-light cameras (RLC) across Florida. The state keeps the majority of revenue from RLC fines.
FDOT and many local municipalities are ignoring a series of federal safety guidelines at almost all local RLC intersections. The shorter-than-recommended lights may not give older drivers or truck drivers enough time to stop safely.
In unincoporated Manatee County, that means yellow lights set to 4.0 seconds at RLC intersections when they should be set to 4.5 seconds or more. Studies have shown half of all RLC violations tend to occur in the first half-second of a red light.
The RLC at 57th Ave. E/15th St. E, a 40 mph zone, ticket drivers after just 4.0 seconds of yellow. The signal used to stay on yellow for 4.3 seconds until its retiming in June 2012.
And the RLC at 53rd Ave. W/34th St. W, also a 40 mph zone, was reduced from 4.5 seconds to the bare-bones state minimum of 4.0 in June 2012.
In response to the 10 News investigation, FDOT said it would allow local communities to extend yellow light times to comply with national standards.
"We would like to continue to have those conversations with FDOT," said county commissioner Betsy Benac. "We don't want to catch anybody (unfairly)."
Manatee County is also in the process of installing cameras at a number of new locations.
While the county has just two RLC intersections, the City of Bradenton operates seven RLC intersections, but most exceed the state's minimum yellow intervals. And while many are still shorter than federal guidelines suggest, the following intersections appear to have safer yellow intervals than the county's:
- Manatee Ave E. and 1st St. E W/B (35 mph; 4.0 sec)
- 1st St. W and Manatee Ave. W S/B (35 mph; 4.5 sec)
- 6th Ave. W and 1st St. E/B (30 mph; 4.0 sec)
- 7th Ave. E and 9th St. E E/B (35 mph; 4.0 sec)
- 27th St. E and Manatee Ave. E W/B (45 mph; 4.5 sec)
- 9th St. W and 3rd Ave. W S/B (35 mph; 4.0 sec)
- 15th St. W and Manatee Ave. W E/B (40 mph; 4.0 sec)
FDOT tells 10 News that it doesn't receive any direct revenue from red light cameras and it doesn't issue citations. One of the agency's top engineers also says the agency is now looking at fast-tracking a three-tenths of a second increase to yellow light minimums across the state.