Red Light Cams Shut Down Over 'Yellow Light' Length Concerns
Lawrence Township is among 21 N.J. municipalities ordered to suspend ticketing and conduct a study of yellow light durations at red light camera-controlled intersections. The order was discussed at Lawrence Township Council's meeting Tuesday evening.
Lawrence Township is one of 21 New Jersey municipalities that were ordered on Tuesday (June 19) to suspend the issuance of summonses from its red light enforcement cameras.
The state Department of Transportation made the call based on video evidence provided by cameras placed at intersections, officials said.
The decision to suspend the issuance of summonses was made because the legislation that authorizes the cameras under a pilot program requires a formula to determine the proper duration of the yellow light in a traffic signal that differs from the formula most state roads already use.
A red light enforcement camera system is located at the intersection of Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) and Franklin Corner Road/Bakers Basin Road in Lawrence Township.
State officials said most yellow lights follow the legally-required engineering and safety standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which requires a minimum duration of the yellow light to equal one-tenth of the posted speed limit on the approaching road.
For example, where the approaching road has a posted speed of 40 mph, the signal must display yellow for a minimum of four seconds. The DOT rounds up to the nearest whole second, so in instances where the approaching speed limit is 45 mph, the signal should display a yellow light for five seconds.
The formula in the legislation that determines red light camera program eligibility, however, requires an analysis of vehicle speeds as they approach the intersection where a red light camera installation is located or proposed. The formula requires a yellow signal of at least three seconds if at least 85 percent of the approaching traffic travels at speeds of 25 mph or less.
For each increase of 5 mph in vehicle speed above 30 mph, the minimum duration of the yellow light must be increased by 0.5 seconds, according to the legislation.
This requirement, officials said, is there to ensure that the traffic signal is timed properly to provide motorists with sufficient time to avoid a violation and fine by entering an intersection when the light is red.
Under the state's directive, municipalities must conduct traffic analyses and submit certifications to the NJ DOT by Aug. 1.
If the analysis shows that the duration of a yellow light meets the minimum duration as required by the legislation, a municipality will be permitted to issue violation notices for violations that occur during the suspension period, and continue issuing violation notices.
If the analysis shows that a signal does not display a yellow light long enough to meet the formula in the legislation, that intersection will be removed from the pilot program.
The NJ DOT order was discussed at Tuesday evening's Lawrence Township Council meeting.
"We as a town, as a participant in the red light camera program, are required to create a study, a certification to be done by Mr. [James] Parvesse, the township engineer, that the yellow clearance intervals for approaching the light are at the appropriate compliance with the regulations," Township Manager Richard Krawczun told council.
"So what will happen is we will need to conduct a study," Krawczun explained. "Mr. Parvesse and I and the police chief will work out the specifics of that. And what this will require is that that certification states that that yellow time appropriately represents the speed of 85 percent of the vehicle traffic as it approaches the signal. So there is a speed requirement based on the posted speed limit for each approach.... So we will be conducting that study. That study has to be completed on or before Aug. 1 of 2012 and it must be received by DOT.
"If the certification is compliant with the regulations, then you can continue the program. If you fail to submit your certification you will be withdrawn from the program, your authorization rescinded. And if you are not compliant, your authorization is rescinded," Krawczun continued. "So, basically, we will get that study done and determine whether or not we are in compliance.
"From this point forward, the citations issued for running the red light camera are held in abeyance until the certification study is complete. If the certification is deemed to be acceptable those citations will be issued as well as any subsequent citations that can be issued to violators," Krawczun concluded.
Later in the council meeting, Councilman Michael Powers expressed concern that, in certain periods when road conditions are made more treacherous due to bad weather, the red light camera system could pose an unintentional safety concern if motorists are so worried about getting a ticket that they slam on their brakes at the last moment.
"On June 12 we had fairly severe weather; we had a heavy downpour. I witnessed a rear-end collision because a vehicle’s stopping distance was affected by the wet weather," Powers explained. "One of the things, I think, in terms of feedback to DOT, given that this is a pilot program, is when there is an ice storm or something happening, we don’t want residents worried about getting a ticket. They should be focused on dealing with the severe weather.
"What we might want to think about is having an exception on severe weather days, such as when there’s a hurricane or ice storm or some sort of severe weather event, so folks don’t have to worry about the camera. They have to just worry about their safety, because that is the goal in terms of this pilot program," Powers said.
Editor's Note: Below is the complete text of the New Jersey Department of Transportation's news release about the temporary suspension of the red light camera program.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation has directed 21 of the 25 municipalities that are participating in a pilot program to suspend issuing summonses to motorists on the basis of video evidence provided by cameras placed at intersections.
The suspension order affects 63 of the 85 intersections statewide where red light cameras are operating or have been approved for operation. It affects all locations in 19 participating municipalities and one intersection in each of two other municipalities.
The pilot program, authorized by an act of the Legislature in 2008 and implemented beginning in 2009, aims to determine whether red light cameras promote safety by reducing the frequency and severity of crashes at intersections that have a history of motorists running red lights.
NJ DOT, which is administering the five-year pilot program, has ordered that the issuance of new violation summonses be suspended at the 63 intersections because it has come to the attention of the department that the pilot program legislation specifies a formula to determine the proper duration of the yellow light in a traffic signal that differs from the legally required, nationally accepted formula that NJDOT or municipalities use when installing traffic signals. The difference in the formulas may or may not require a longer duration for the yellow light.
Every traffic signal at each of the 85 intersections in the pilot program conforms to the nationally accepted standard used by NJ DOT.
However, traffic signals at only 22 of the 85 intersections were certified in accordance with the formula specified in the legislation.
NJ DOT has notified the 21 affected municipalities of the variance in the formulas and has directed each to perform an analysis that conforms to the formula in the legislation.
- If the analysis shows that the duration of a yellow light meets the minimum duration as required by the legislation, municipalities will be permitted to issue violation notices for violations that occur during the suspension period, and continue issuing violation notices.
- If the analysis shows that a signal does not display a yellow light long enough to meet the formula in the legislation, that intersection will be removed from the pilot program.
The violation suspension and signal re-certification directives affect all cameras installed at intersections in the following 19 municipalities:
Newark, Linden, Wayne, Palisades Park, Union Township, Springfield (Union County), Roselle Park, Rahway, Englewood Cliffs, Pohatcong, Piscataway, Edison, East Windsor, Lawrence, Cherry Hill, Stratford, Monroe, Brick and Glassboro.
The order affects one location in each of the following two municipalities:
In Jersey City at JFK Boulevard (CR 501) and Communipaw Avenue and Woodbridge at Route 1 and Avenel Street.
Click here for a complete list of the 85 intersections approved for red light camera enforcement.
The intersections not affected by the directives include one in Deptford, one in East Brunswick, four in Gloucester and one in New Brunswick. Additionally, 12 of 13 intersections equipped with cameras in Jersey City and three of four intersections in Woodbridge are excluded from the directives.
NJ DOT has directed affected municipalities to conduct their traffic analyses and submit certifications to the Department no later than August 1, 2012.
Yellow time calculations
NJ DOT follows the legally required engineering and safety standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which requires a minimum duration of the yellow light to equal one-tenth of the posted speed limit on the approaching road. This is a safety standard designed to provide motorists with sufficient time to respond to the yellow light and prevent collisions.
For example, where the approaching road has a posted speed of 40 miles per hour, the signal must display yellow for a minimum of four seconds. NJDOT rounds up to the nearest whole second, so in instances where the approaching speed limit is 45 miles per hour, the signal displays a yellow light for five seconds.
The formula in the legislation to determine pilot-program eligibility requires an analysis of vehicle speeds as they approach the intersection where a red light camera installation is proposed. The formula requires a yellow signal of at least three seconds if at least 85 percent of the approaching traffic travels at speeds of 25 miles per hour or less.
For each five mile-per-hour increase in vehicle speed above 30 miles per hour, the minimum duration of the yellow light must be increased by 0.5 seconds, according to the legislation.
This requirement aims to ensure that the traffic signal is timed properly to provide motorists with sufficient time to avoid a violation and fine by entering an intersection when the light is red.