TAMPA, Fla. -- Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to request longer yellow light intervals following 10 News' investigation into red light camera intersections.
The motion, which passed on a 7-0 vote, directed staff to work with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to explore adding approximately one second to all yellow lights across unincorporated Hillsborough County.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner suggested adding 0.5 seconds to accommodate slower reaction/deceleration times for elderly or truck drivers, as well as another 0.5 seconds (approximately) to accommodate for the state using posted speed limit in its calculations instead of drivers' actual approach speed.
"I certainly do not support or promote the use of red-light cameras for the purpose of solely generating revenue for the county's coffers," Beckner said. "This is first and foremost about public safety."
FDOT already acknowledged this week its yellow light minimums may have been too short, and it is now in the process of raising them statewide by 0.4 seconds.
But while Hillsborough County's motion carried unanimously, it met some resistance from FDOT representatives on-hand to answer questions.
Jim Moulton, Director of Transportation Operations for FDOT's District 7, repeatedlytold commissioners the state's minimum yellow lengths were satisfactory for most local roads. He also said using posted speed to calculate yellow light intervals was appropriate.
Except 10 News pointed out several national studies that suggested otherwise. Beckner pointed out the county never conducted the traffic studies recommended before installing RLC.
Moulton suggested maintaining strict yellow light minimums would penalize speeding drivers, but had no comment as towhether it was the safest option.
FDOT engineer Gary Thompson responded to a Beckner question about adding time for elderly or truck drivers by saying, "I'm not really sure I know any overwhelming and compelling reasons to increase the yellow."
And county engineer Mike Williams told commissioners that the technology had reduced traffic crashes at five of the six RLC intersections. The only intersection that did not show a drop in crashes was Bloomingdale Ave. & Bell Shoals Rd.. the intersection where the yellow lights had been most recently reduced.
Commissioner Sandy Murman voted for Beckner's motion as well, but told her fellow commissioners that somelegislators warned her to "tread carefully" on the RLC issue.
Last year, Hillsborough County made more than a million dollars of RLC fines from six monitored intersections. Across Florida, more than $100 million in RLC fines were issued, and 2013 is likely to produce more than $120 million in fines.
FDOT representatives also suggested lengthening yellow lights could open the county up to lawsuits, but there appears to have been few considerations for lawsuits when yellow intervals were reduced over the last few years.
Hillsborough County and FDOT will likely re-time intersections with RLC this summer, while it could take several years to re-timethe rest of the county's intersections.