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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

NY Intersections with red-light “gotcha’’ cameras routinely cut short the time to make it through yellow lights -

NY Intersections with red-light “gotcha’’ cameras routinely cut short the time to make it through yellow lights - 

City intersections with red-light “gotcha’’ cameras routinely cut short the time that motorists have to make it through yellow lights, running up the number of tickets issued and milking drivers already getting clobbered by record gas prices and skyrocketing tolls, The Post has learned.

Based on recent random surveys, AAA New York has found that intersections with cameras have yellow lights that are shorter by as much as 15 percent compared to the city standard.

“They’re not giving people ample time to get through intersections,” said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair. “This is supposed to be about safety, not just raising revenue, and that’s what it’s become.”

The city Department of Transportation says the standard time it sets its yellow lights at is about a second for every 10 mph of the speed limit, or three seconds for the typical 30-mph intersection.

But the AAA engineers found that the city’s yellow lights at intersections with cameras were coming in as low as 2.53 seconds. The short timing was clear as day during a recent series of random reviews observed by The Post.

AAA is “in favor of red-light cameras,” Sinclair insisted. “But it must be fair. People lose respect for these programs if they view them as revenue enhancers. You can’t have respect for this program if you’re setting it up to be unfair and you’re just reaching into people’s pockets.”

New York was the first city in the country to use cameras to catch drivers running red lights, after the state Legislature approved the move in 1998. Since then, more than 6 million citations have been issued, according to city statistics, with more than a sixth of those recorded in 2010. Figures for last year aren’t available yet.

There are now 150 intersections equipped with a total of 170 red-light cameras around the city.

The cameras have led to a burst of bucks. In the past five years, they have generated more than $235 million for city coffers, with $47.2 million being chalked up last year alone.

Mayor Bloomberg continues to push for state approval to increase the number of monitored intersections to 225, but insists safety is the point — not cash.

“Our goal is for drivers not to run through red lights,” said City Hall spokesman John McCarthy. “Ideally, we would have zero revenue.”

Confronted with AAA’s findings, city DOT spokeswoman Nicole Garcia defended the camera system, saying, “There is no legal requirement for the length of a yellow signal.”

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