BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE       BILL NO: AB 612
          SENATOR MARK DESAULNIER, CHAIRMAN              AUTHOR:  nazarian
                                                         VERSION: 3/19/13
          Analysis by:  Erin Riches                      FISCAL:  no
          Hearing date:  June 25, 2013



          SUBJECT:

          Automated enforcement systems:  yellow lights

          DESCRIPTION:

          This bill establishes longer yellow light intervals at  
          intersections with automated enforcement systems and requires  
          courts to dismiss citations occurring at intersections where  
          local agencies have not designated these yellow light intervals.  
           

          ANALYSIS:

          Existing law:

           Provides that a yellow light signal warns a driver that a red  
            indication will be shown immediately thereafter, signaling a  
            change in the right-of-way assignment.

           Authorizes a local government agency, in cooperation with a  
            local law enforcement agency, to install an automated traffic  
            enforcement system (commonly known as a red light camera) at  
            an intersection pursuant to specified requirements.

           Defines an automated traffic enforcement system as a system  
            operated by a government agency, in cooperation with a law  
            enforcement agency, that photographically records a driver's  
            responses to a rail or rail transit signal and/or crossing  
            gate, or to an official traffic control signal, and is  
            designed to obtain a clear photograph of a vehicle's license  
            plate and the driver of the vehicle.

           Requires the local agency to establish minimum yellow light  
            change intervals at red light camera intersections in  
            accordance with the California Manual on Uniform Traffic  
            Control Devices (California MUTCD).  





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          The California MUTCD:

           Provides that a yellow light change interval should have a  
            minimum duration of three seconds and a maximum duration of  
            six seconds, with the longer intervals reserved for use on  
            approaches with higher speeds.  

           Recommends specific yellow light intervals ranging from 3.0  
            seconds for a posted speed of up to 25 miles per hour to 5.8  
            seconds for a posted speed of 65 miles per hour.

           
          This bill  :

           Requires a local agency to establish minimum yellow light  
            intervals at red light camera intersections at one second  
            longer than the yellow light change intervals provided in the  
            California MUTCD.

           Requires courts to dismiss traffic citations issued at red  
            light camera intersections if the local agency or local  
            authority has failed to establish the specified yellow light  
            intervals.

          COMMENTS:
          
           1.Purpose  .  The author states that red light cameras create  
            situations where motorists brake earlier than usual at a  
            yellow light in order to avoid a ticket for running the red  
            light; the author contends that this leads to an increased  
            number of rear-end collisions.  The author and sponsor cite  
            numerous studies which have found that extending yellow light  
            intervals reduces collisions related to red light running.   
            The author states that this is because local jurisdictions may  
            set the yellow light interval below the minimum.  In addition,  
            jurisdictions tend to set yellow light intervals according to  
            the posted speed limit rather than the actual speed motorists  
            are traveling, which is often higher than the posted limit.   
            The author states that this bill is a logical step toward  
            achieving the ultimate mission of red light cameras, namely,  
            to improve safety.

           2.Red light cameras  .  California first authorized the use of red  
            light cameras in 1994 at rail crossings, and expanded this  
            authorization to signalized intersections several years later.  
             Red light cameras have been the subject of some controversy,  




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            and numerous pieces of legislation in recent years have  
            addressed issues such as privacy and concerns that red light  
            camera intersections are more focused on revenue generation  
            than traffic safety.  SB 667 (Peace), Chapter 396, Statutes of  
            2001, required local agencies to set yellow light intervals  
            based on the California MUTCD at intersections with red light  
            cameras.  The author of SB 667 introduced the bill based on  
            testimony at an informational hearing indicating that at some  
            red light camera intersections the yellow light interval was  
            shorter than California MUTCD standards, effectively creating  
            red light speed traps.  
                
            3.Caltrans review  .  Existing law requires Caltrans, after  
            consultation with local agencies and public hearings, to adopt  
            rules and regulations prescribing uniform standards and  
            specifications for traffic control devices in the state.   
            Caltrans fulfills this mandate through its California Traffic  
            Control Devices Committee (CTCDC), which Caltrans created for  
            this purpose.  The CTCDC is an advisory body which reviews  
            rules and regulations and makes recommendations to the  
            Caltrans director, who ultimately adopts and publishes rules  
            and regulations in the CA MUCTD.  The committee is made up of  
            representatives from Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol,  
            and local governments, and also consults with technical  
            advisors.

            During its quarterly meeting on July 25, 2013, the CTCDC will  
            consider issues concerning yellow signal timing at all  
            signalized intersections in relation to findings cited in a  
            new National Highway Cooperative Research Program report.  The  
            CTCDC will decide whether to assign a subcommittee to look  
            further into issues raised by this report.  If it chooses to  
            do so, the full committee may consider a recommended policy  
            change as early as fall or winter of this year.  The committee  
            may wish to consider holding this bill pending CTCDC review of  
            this issue, or directing Caltrans to study yellow light timing  
            and report back to the Legislature with recommended action.
               
            4.Unintended consequences  .  Traffic engineers calculate red,  
            yellow, and green light intervals for each intersection based  
            on both engineering formulas (pursuant to the CA MUCTD) and  
            circumstances (e.g., two main streets intersecting versus a  
            side street intersecting a main street).  In addition,  
            engineers often synchronize traffic lights along a  
            high-traffic corridor to facilitate traffic flow.  Adding one  
            second to yellow lights at red light camera intersections  




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            could wreak havoc with such synchronization and cause a need  
            to re-time the entire corridor, at potentially significant  
            cost to localities.

           5.Why not all intersections  ?  The Northern and Southern  
            California Automobile Associations note that minimum yellow  
            light intervals reduce red light violations and related  
            collisions so dramatically that they should be instituted at  
            all intersections in the state.  The sponsor notes that these  
            intersections have, by definition, been targeted as areas with  
            high rates of red light running.  In addition, the red light  
            cameras provide data to enable localities to track results.   
            Thus, the sponsor states that it is logical to apply this bill  
            just to those intersections, at least as a start.    

           6.Battling studies  .  The sponsor, who opposes red light cameras,  
            cites numerous studies showing that localities that have  
            lengthened yellow light intervals have experienced significant  
            drops in red-light running and collisions.  Other studies,  
            many funded by the red light camera industry, show that red  
            light cameras have a much more significant impact.  
                
            7.Opposition concerns  .  The California Police Chiefs Association  
            notes that this bill is inconsistent with the formulaic  
            approach established in the CA MUCTD.  Similarly, the League  
            of California Cities states that current yellow light  
            intervals are based on considerable research and actual  
            practice, and reflect the conditions of the particular  
            intersection.  The City and County of San Francisco states  
            that making yellow lights longer encourages disrespect of  
            yellow lights, particularly in slow-speed urban conditions.   
            Finally, Redflex Traffic Systems argues that providing longer  
            yellow lights would encourage drivers to enter intersections  
            further into the yellow phase and could disrupt the flow of  
            vehicles from intersection to intersection, ultimately  
            creating a risk of increased crashes.
                
           Assembly Votes:
               Floor:    72-1
               Trans:    15-0

          POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on  
          Wednesday,                                             June 19,  
          2013.)

               SUPPORT:  Safer Streets L.A. (sponsor)




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                         American Automobile Association Northern  
          California, Nevada, and Utah
                         Automobile Club of Southern California
                         California Association of Highway Patrolmen
                         California Conference Board of the Amalgamated  
          Transit Union
                         California Conference of Machinists
                         California Construction Trucking Association
                         California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
                         National Motorists Association
                         Peace Officers Research Association of California
                         One individual
                                                                      
               OPPOSED:  California Police Chiefs Association
                         City and County of San Francisco
                         League of California Cities
                         Redflex Traffic Systems