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This article was published 15/8/2010 (3851 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Forget red-light cameras: a one-second solution could cut intersection accidents and make photo-enforcement obsolete, say two local traffic activists.
Now, the founders of Wise Up Winnipeg are angling for the city to trade the automatic red-light snaps for something they say will do a better job at keeping intersections safe: adding a single second to the length of yellow lights in Winnipeg.
Fed up with what they say is indifference from decision-makers on alternative intersection-safety solutions, Wise Up's Larry Stefanuik and Todd Dube are gearing up for a full-throttle media campaign to spread their message that red-light cameras aren't the best way to make intersections safer. The campaign, called Just One Second, will be unveiled on city billboards, large newspaper ads, and a website in mid-September.
"One second exposes the entire (red-light camera) scheme for what it is, and that is revenue, period," Dube said. "Yellow lights aren't for the purpose of testing your brakes. They are to orchestrate the safe clearance of traffic through an intersection, and this city has been putting them to work like slot machines."
At issue: Dube and Stefanuik, who is a retired Winnipeg Police Service traffic officer, say that their measurements show some city yellow lights are too short for most intersections.
Their reference is a commonly used engineering formula that bases light times on factors such as speed limit, the grade of the road, and the length of the intersection. The pair say they have measured lights that timed out too short for the formula.
In 2009, the U.S.-based Institute of Transportation Engineers updated its uniform traffic controls, insisting that by 2014 all yellow lights be timed based on that engineering formula, rather than a "rule of thumb."
"Safety studies have documented significant reductions in crashes when jurisdictions have revised the durations of the yellow change and red clearance intervals using the accepted engineering practices," the ITE wrote in a notice of the update.
The ITE has also reported that while enforcement techniques such as red-light cameras deter drivers who want to run reds, engineering changes -- such as extended yellow-light times or changes to the intersection approach -- better help the majority of red-light runners who do so accidentally.
A city spokeswoman said that yellow lights in Winnipeg last a minimum of four seconds, "which is adequate for the speeds and intersection geometries in the city." She noted that the standard is in keeping with engineering guidelines from the ITE and Canadian recommendations for uniform traffic controls.
Meanwhile, Dube and Stefanuik are looking south of the border for inspiration.
Down south, red-light cameras sat in the hot-seat this summer, the subject of a June 29 United States congressional hearing into the safety and success rates of automated traffic enforcement.
One of the loudest voices at the hearing was that of Georgia state congressman Barry Loudermilk, who spearheaded a successful 2008 campaign to cut back on photo enforcement after 2006 reports that accidents at photo-controlled intersections were actually on the rise. The resulting law demanded, in part, that yellow lights at camera-controlled intersections be timed to U.S. federal engineering standards, with one extra second added.
In January, the new rules went into effect; within 90 days, red-light running had dropped by 72 per cent at monitored intersections.
The campaign was so effective that 12 Georgia cities soon dismantled some or all of their photo-enforcement cameras after they became no longer profitable, Loudermilk reported at the hearing.
Dube and Stefanuik keep in close touch with Loudermilk, who spoke in Winnipeg in March. The pair said they invited elected officials from city and provincial government, but none attended.
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.