The Problem is the International Standards
Preexisting Condition - Yellows Are Short Already
People should know that red light cameras only exploit a preexisting condition. Cities do not need to short their existing yellow lights to make lots of money. The yellows are already short by international standard.
Jurisdictions like Winnipeg, Canada or New York City that pride themselves with not complying to the ITE formula and serve up yellow lights which are shorter than the formula have a bigger problem. The ITE Formula does apply physics. The ITE Formula applies physics to satisfy one singular type of traffic situation. This one traffic situation represents the fastest possible yellow time. All other traffic situations, including turning situations, demand more time than the ITE formula.
The Problem is with the Yellow Light
Everyday when confronted with a yellow light we ask, "Should I stop? Should I go? Should I beat the light? Should I slam on the brakes? Do I have time to make the turn? Am I going to run this light by a fraction of a second?" To us these questions are part of everyday driving. We do not give them a second thought, until we get a red light camera ticket. We must understand that it is the nature of the yellow light which gives birth to our questions. The yellow light poses predicaments which though we are familiar, we cannot solve correctly 100% of the time. Our failure to solve sometimes ends up by us unintentionally running a red light. Sometimes the yellow light even poses a unsolvable situation which forces us to run a red light. All the predicaments, situations and even the questions themselves rise from mathematical formula traffic engineers use to set the length of yellow lights.
Traffic engineers use the the ITE formula to set yellow lights. The formula sets the yellow time to 50% of the time it takes a driver to stop his vehicle. 50%. We want to change the formula so that it gives the driver 100% of the time. Because some drivers think that yellow light means stop, they will stop aggressively causing a rear-end collision. Some will skid into the intersection on a red. For some drivers who go instead of stop, yellow light means "go really fast." While we poke fun at that definition in movies like "Starman", that definition is actually the truth. You will find that definition in the 1982 ITE publication Transportation and Traffic Engineering Handbook.
It is necessary to have faith in traffic engineers, but we learned in the last three years that that expectation is not warranted. Despite the life-and-death responsibility they have with setting yellow durations, traffic engineers (as a profession) do not know how to set a yellow light. They all misunderstand the formula. The ITE formula is like a picture, a picture worth a thousand words. Those words are in the language of physics, a language which traffic engineers do not understand. At this web site's North Carolina Exhibits section, you can read the depositions and affidavits of 4 NCDOT traffic engineers. 4 of 4 did not know where "v" is supposed to measured. 4 of 4 do not know that the formula cannot be applied to turning movements. 4 of 4 did not know that this formula creates dilemma and indecision zones. 4 of 4 did not recognize that this formula is not an equation of motion, a physics term meaning that one cannot apply this formula to objects in the universe and expect it work. 3 of 4 did not know that the ITE formula embeds the safe stopping distance formula. 1 of 4 could not same a single one of Newton's Laws of Motion, and believes that "Physics only applies to a partially vacuumed Earth."
The ignorance of the ITE Formula extends beyond the borders of North Carolina. The ignorance is all over the world. The ignorance even extends to the highest levels. It extends to the National Transportation Board. The November 2012 report NCHRP-731 exhibits this ignorance. Written by Hugh McGee, Sr., Keven Moriarty, Kim Eccles, Mindy Liu, Timothy Gates and Richard Retting, these authors represent typical traffic engineers. These authors make the same mistake. They misapply the ITE formula to turning movements. Read their treatment for left turning drivers. Then compare it with our paper The Derivation of the Yellow Change Interval Formula. The physics of the ITE formula plainly does not apply to turning traffic.
We have found that Courts are not the venue to resolve problems of physics. Inside the courtroom are legal proceedings which are not conducive to learning. During the recent trial of Ceccarelli vs Town of Cary, the plaintiffs had to either teach the judge physics or impart upon him the eminent role physics plays in engineering. We could not achieve this goal in the time allotted. The judge really needs a month of classroom study to get a proper perspective. But in Court neither plaintiffs nor defendants can treat the judge as a student. It is not a teacher-student atmosphere and the plaintiff is forbidden to ask the judge questions. No one is allowed to probe the judge on whether he understands the math. We cannot stop the trial to ask the judge to solve a math problem and confirm his understanding. There are also diversions pressing upon the judge. The Town of Cary's argument was to draw his attention away from physics. Cary's argument is that the Court's concern should be over statutes not physics--that physics is hocus-pocus. Cary's attorney kept on asserting that Cary was innocently abiding by the general statutes, that the NCDOT was following engineering practices as necessitated by the statutes, and that it does not matter whether those practices oppose the laws of physics. So long as Cary abides by the statutes, laws of physics are irrelevant to the Town's guilt. The Town may financially exploit any errors. The Town of Cary's attorney even motioned to strike the laws of physics, motioned that physics is irrelevant to engineering and motioned to strike the testimony of the all the experts witnesses who are physicists, even the Ph.Ds. Cary made all these motions in spite of the fact that the formula in question was invented by three physicists.
The trial ended January 17, 2013 with the Court ruling in favor of Cary. The judge signed the Order and Judgment on March 4, 2013, the long period intervening because the Judge ordered the Town of Cary to insert more "points of fact" into the document. On March 4, 2013, we filed a Motion for a New Trial based on Rule 59: the judge's decision contradicts the law. The judge based his ruling on the idea one of Cary's traffic engineers planted in his head at the last moment: that Mr. Ceccarelli and Ms. Millette could have stopped comfortably at their respective intersections. But even if that was true, that is irrelevant to law. The statute enabling Cary to operate red light cameras has nothing to do with the ability of Mr. Ceccarelli or Ms. Millette to stop. The law has all to do with whether the yellow light duration was set long enough to proceed according to engineering practices. If the engineering practice is to use signal plans that do not match the intersection, then Cary is innocent. As for whether or not Ceccarelli and Millette could have stopped comfortably, Cary's traffic engineer erroneously told the judge that 13.2 ft/s/s was a comfortable deceleration rate. The judge not knowing that this rate is 15% over the NCDOT, AASHTO, MUTCD and federal maximum deceleration rate, the judge accepted the value and used it to rule in favor of Cary.
Instead of a courtroom scene, we believe the issue would be handled by the State's Board of Engineers. We have found that engineers (not traffic engineers) and physicists understand the formula and subsequent erroneous traffic engineering practices in 30 seconds. Unlike a judge, there is no need to teach the role physics plays in engineering to board members. They know. The Board of Engineers, more than the Court, has the authority to disciple engineers. They can even revoke licenses based on law. Every State has a statute for the requirements of professional licensed engineers which reads, "The engineer must know the special mathematical and physical sciences required to perform the duties of his field so as to not put life, health and property at risk." Traffic engineers do not know the physics required to set a yellow change interval and an all-red clearance interval and so violate all aspects of this statute. While the Board the Engineers does not have the power to recoup money stolen from drivers by cities and red light camera companies, the Board does have the authority to force traffic engineers to fix the engineering so that people will be safe and not punished for engineering errors in the future.
Source of Red Light Camera Revenue
Cary, North Carolina told by Chad Vader
This is an account of the red light camera program that existed in the Town of Cary, North Carolina. Dr. Moley represents the real-life person Brad Hudson. Hudson came to work once a month and without looking at the videos, accused and convicted everyone of running a red light. Baby Cookieflex plays the part of Maria, an employee of Redflex. She worked at the "Safelight" office in Cary. If you have a problem with the ticket, the Cary police send you to Maria or Frank Rubino. Maria indeed said, "Aren't you happy that your $50 goes to public schools? Don't you care about children?" Until the very end of the program, Cary had spread Redflex's propaganda line to the local TV stations and the newspapers. Cary never said what percentage goes to schools. By contract, the Town of Cary paid Redflex $49.50 of every $50. That is 99%. That leaves 50 cents to the schools. The contract contained a tiered compensation clause. When the Town of Cary and the NCDOT engineers forced more drivers to run red lights, Cary only had to pay Redflex 60%. Once Cary took out its own administrative costs, about $5.00 out of $50.00 went to the schools.