10/16/2019Engineering Panel Backpedals On Yellow Times
Yellow time could increase for turning movements at intersections after engineer convinces national panel that drivers have been shortchanged.
Opponents of red light cameras have long argued that yellow times are too short. Now, the body responsible for setting yellow time standards agrees. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) in August set up a panel of experts to consider the appeal of a team of engineers who came to the nation's capital to argue the method of setting yellow times for left-hand and right-hand turns shortchanged motorists. In a September 27 letter to the head of ITE, the panel fully agreed with the appeal on two major points and partially agreed on two others.
"The panel believes that the appellants introduced enough evidence to establish the case that the existing Kinematic Equation does not fully cover several dilemma-zone situations for left-turn and right-turn movements," the ITE panel concluded. "However, the issue is quite complex and the changes to the recommended practice recommended by the appellants to address this issue raise practicality and implementability concerns... The panel suggests that this item be properly reconsidered by ITE."
ITE has been telling cities to subtract 5 MPH from the speed limit when setting the duration of the yellow warning light at intersections. Cities have cited this methodology as cover to shorten yellow times at locations enforced by red light cameras. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, for instance, the left-turn lanes on Oyster Point Road and Jefferson Avenue were shortened from 3.6 to 3.2 seconds to boost red light camera revenue by following this formula.
The team that filed the appeal consisted of Oregon engineer Mats Jarlstrom, Safer Streets LA executive director Jay Beeber, North Carolina professional engineer Brian Ceccarelli, and the National Motorists Association's professional engineer Joe Bahen. The appeal used a physics model to prove mathematically that the ITE's current recommended practice dangerously shortchanged drivers making turns.
"The panel does... recommend that ITE place stronger language in the recommended practice that clearance intervals calculated using the recommended practices in the document should not be used to determine red light violations using red light enforcement cameras with zero tolerance," the panel concluded.
In January, Jarlstrom won a federal court decision earning him the right to call himself an "engineer" in Oregon, even though the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering had not issued him a professional engineering license. Jarlstrom holds a degree in electrical engineering, but the engineering board, the court ruled, had illegally tried to stop Jarlstrom from speaking out against the use of short yellow times to bolster red light camera ticketing efforts.
Read Jarlstrom's technical slide presentation to the ITE panel (5mb PDF file). The source link below has a copy of the ITE panel findings in a 200k PDF file.
Update: The article has been updated to identify the individuals who filed the appeal.