At Chicago intersections in which red light cameras are installed, the yellow lights last only 3 seconds, the bare minimum required under federal regulations. In the suburbs, yellow lights last for between four to four and one half seconds. The shorter yellow lights intentionally make it harder for motorists to stop in time and makes it more likely that more tickets will be issued at that intersection. While government officials claim that public safety is the main motivation for the use of red light cameras, there is no doubt that red light cameras are big money makers for local government. Chicago has installed red light cameras at 186 intersections. The revenue generated for last year for the City of Chicago was over $59 million. Federal guidelines suggest that yellow lights last between 3 to 6 seconds. City officials claim that yellow lights in the City of Chicago are set for 3 seconds because the speed limit in the city is 30 miles an hour. Yellow lights are longer in the suburbs because the speed limits in the suburbs are generally higher. However, in many suburban intersections in which the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, the yellow lights stay on longer than 3 seconds. In defense of Chicago, New York City also sets its yellow lights at 3 seconds. However, in Los Angeles, when the yellow lights were changed from 3 to 4 seconds, the city noticed a big drop off in the number of red light tickets issued.
The new legislation approved by the State Senate yesterday would allow the City of Chicago to keep the yellow lights at 3 seconds because the time limit falls within federal guidelines.
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