Southern Brooklyn

DOT Claims The AAA Red Light Camera Study Is Totally False

Source: Sébastien Santoro via Wikimedia Commons

A report from the American Automobile Association (AAA) came out last month stating that red light cameras rigged to traffic lights on Ocean Parkway and Emmons Avenue are 15 percent shorter than the average three second time for a yellow light to change into a red light.

The nationwide not-for-profit group called for widespread changes in New York’s yellow traffic light timings based on their findings. New York does not have a legal time requirement for a yellow light, and AAA claimed that this is a danger for pedestrians and drivers.

Now, information has come from the Department of Transportation that states the study done by AAA was completely bogus because the intersections they claim to have surveyed are timed at three seconds, an appropriate duration, while some of the intersections in question don’t even have red light cameras.

AAA is now saying it’s study wasn’t all that much a study at all.

“It wasn’t really a study,”said AAA Spokesperson Robert Sinclair, in a story published by Streets Blog. “It was an ad-hoc survey.”

What is factual is that the cameras brought in a lot of money from tickets issued, up to $235 million in funds in the past five years. As we’ve stated before, many drivers and advocates say that the cameras and quick-to-change lights are a danger and a way to collect quick revenue, rather than a means to control traffic safety.

After the AAA reports surfaced, DOT claimed they did their own survey on the intersections AAA mentioned and found them to be within regulation. They also put up a frequently-asked-questions post on their site refuting the claims that AAA made:

Myth: Traffic signals are timed with shorter yellow signals to snare motorists.

Fact: New York City’s traffic signals are all timed to provide a minimum of 3 seconds of yellow light, which is consistent with national guidelines. Red-light cameras take pictures 0.3 seconds after the light has turned red.

Myth: A news report found four camera locations where signals were timed to less than 3 seconds.

Fact: All four locations reported on were immediately inspected and all were found to have appropriate timing. Two of the four intersections reported on didn’t even have red-light cameras. There has been no substantiation that any red-light cameras in this report were improperly timed or led to any violation being issued incorrectly.

AAA still states that the unregulated lights need to be addressed.

“Whatever it takes — if it’s a city law, if it’s a state law, there need to be some standards put into place,” said Sinclair.

Comment policy


  1. Well while I have zero trust in government, I appreciate the fact that there are organizations like the AAA that always questioning government when it comes to schemes like these. Which leads me to another question… with SO many taxes out there being collected where the hell is this money going to? lol

  2. I have personally witnessed many intersections where DOT skimps with signals of two seconds or less especially at three-way intersections. Even if they are supposed to be at three seconds, they are not calibrated often enough to make sure this happens. Its very gas inefficient and unsafe to have to slam on the brakes in order not to stop in the middle of the intersection at the very instant a signal turns yellow, and this can even happen while going at the speed limit. It makes more sense to have longer ambers so you can safely slow down.

  3. Let’s cut out all the crap and say why motorists hate the cameras: because they want to continue to run red lights. Everything else is bull. Those studies about longer yellow lights? I don’t believe them. And some of them address only the question of cars about to make a left turn.

    A longer yellow light would just enable motorists to put the pedal to the medal that much longer before the light turns red.

    I’m a believer that humans act for incentives and dis-incentives and that’s why I don’t believe the lengthening yellow light “studies”. A longer yellow light does NOTHING to stop the ever-increasing abuse of the yellow-red light. A camera giving out tickets does, and will finally halt this insanity of people going through the red light 2, 3 seconds after it turns red.

  4. wondering how fast people are going that they have to “slam on the brakes”. And how many people do you know that slow down when they see a yellow light? Come now? Are we talking New York here?

  5. @ Bruce…so you
    want for city to rob people more often just because they can….lets not be
    naive here, they do this in order to generate profit. Look at the Bus Lanes and
    Bike Lanes they do all that in order to generate money…of course after a
    while it becomes a norm. I walk/drive and use my common sense….why not put cameras
    to capture people faces and use face recognition to issue tickets to pedestrians
    that jay walk and etc

    Is that what you striving
    for damn government to have more control over us and rob us on daily bases….Good Luck.

  6. By the laws of physics, it takes a certain amount of distance to stop and certain of amount to time to proceed into an intersection. The State of New York, as well as every where else in the world deny drivers this physical requirement. Mother Nature does not like to be fooled. Even a decrease from 3.0 seconds to 2.8 seconds increases the number of red light runners by over 400%. Taking a picture of a driver with a red light camera does not suddenly empower a driver to walk on water.
    The federal standards for setting yellow light durations oppose the laws of physics. That is why the red light camera industry to so profitable.
    And it very illegal to enact legislation which opposes the Laws of Nature.
    We are suing the Town of Cary for this. The judge granted us class-certification in June. We take Cary to trial in January.
    BTW, you can count on the fact that all your traffic engineers from the techican to the PhD setting the standards haven’t a clue what their own formula means. This fact is coming out in depositions we are taking of Cary’s expert witnesses. So far not one know the meaning of the ITE Yellow Change Formula.

  7. “Let’s cut out all the crap and say why motorists hate the cameras: because they want to continue to run red lights”.

    No sir. Motorists hate cameras because they are biased and unfair. They are nothing more then cash generating waste of money. You really think a camera is going to deter a speeder? If a red light isn’t stopping someone, a camera isn’t going to either. An ahole is an ahole. The person that runs the red doesn’t give a crap about anything but themselves so they aren’t going to care about a camera. These cameras do not address cyclists which lets be honest now are far more likely to take a chance and run the red. Let’s not play games here. The Bloomberg administration hates automobiles of any sort. I am glad that there are those looking out for us drivers who simply want to get from point A to B without being bullied for every nickel we have and to expose the garbage that Bloomberg and Khan have been implementing. Put lights in sync, stop removing lanes, stop harassing people with bs tickets and watch how traffic flows more smoothly.

  8. 3.0 seconds is the ITE federal standard yellow duration for a 25 mph level road. That duration assumes that all drivers can react to a yellow light in 1.0 second, that drivers do not decelerate on route to entering the intersection, and that all drivers know exactly where stop turns into go–which for a 25 mph level road would be 110.8 feet from the intersection.

    If the driver knows all these things and can do all these things to precision, then the driver will not get a red light camera ticket.

  9. Well then, that’s the problem right there. The city speed limit on local roads with a few exceptions is 30 mph and the City says that 3 second yellows are adequate. If you are doing 30 and the light turns yellow as you are approaching the intersection, as I said, you have to immediately slam on your breaks and then back up to get out of the crosswalk. If you decide to go through, you run the risk that the signal is shorter than 3 seconds and you will go through the red.

  10. You have to slam on the brakes even if you are within the speed limit if you are too close to the intersection when the light turns yellow.

  11. Yeah let’s cut the crap. The issue is revenue, not safety. Accidents have increased at red light camera intersections due to fender benders from cars making short stops. How many lives have been saved is debatable.

    Now I can’t state that the AAA is correct in that yellows are shorter at some intersections with cameras, but I can cite two examples which prove the only issue is revenue.

    (1) There was a case in Maryland.I believe several years ago where a motorist took the City to court after receiving a ticket. He timed the yellow at the intersection with the camera and it was 4 seconds. Then he timed all the other intersections on the same street and they were 7 seconds. The City pleaded it was an innocent error and agreed to shorten all the yellows to 4 seconds each. Neither the man nor the hundreds of others receiving tickets at that intersection since the camera was installed received any refunds. If this were private enterprise, someone would have gone to jail or been heavily fined, but government can steal as much as it wants to and get away with it.

    (2) Many municipalities have removed red light cameras where the cost to maintain them exceeded the revenue they brought in. If safety were truly the issue and these cameras really did save lives, shouldn’t they still have been retained although they did not generate enough revenue to pay for themselves? Of course, if government really did care about safety more than revenue.

  12. I am most assuredly NOT in favor of “government control”. I am in favor of punishing the incredible and growing number of people flying through red lights. Longer yellows are okay to prevent the honest person from being ticketed, but cameras are necessary to stop the dangerous drivers that are real threats to other drivers and pedestrians.

  13. And since that it is the case BrooklynBus, in legal-speak New York City is setting its traffic signals arbitrarily and capriciously. Illegal. NYC does not even comply with the federal standard. You can class action sue NYC and NYC will lose. There are 3 attorneys in this country which take on cases like this. One of them is in NYC. His name is Josh Bressler.


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