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Plan For Longer Yellow Lights At ‘Photo Enforced’ Intersections Stalls In House

An Illinois lawmaker wants to lengthen yellow lights at "photo enforced" intersections. (CBS)

An Illinois lawmaker wants to lengthen yellow lights at “photo enforced” intersections. (CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – A proposal to add an extra second to yellow lights at intersections with red light cameras has stalled in the Illinois House, and prospects for passage anytime soon appear unlikely.

State Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington) sponsored the measure to require cities that use red light cameras to tack on one more second to yellow lights at “photo-enforced” intersections. Although the measure passed overwhelmingly in the Illinois Senate, it’s gone nowhere in the House.

Duffy said a Texas A&M study found longer yellow lights would reduce the number of accidents, but he said House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) is blocking the legislation.

“If it’s about revenue, then I think people in high positions here in Springfield should let us know the facts, and say that it’s about revenue, that they don’t want to cut the revenue,” Duffy said. “Again, there’s no facts to dispute adding one second of yellow time drastically improves safety at intersections.”

Duffy has said that several cities and towns in other states have implemented the system, and significantly improved safety as a result.

At the same time, implementing longer yellow lights elsewhere has also resulted in a reduction in the number of red light camera tickets.

After the measure passed the Senate in late March, it moved to the House, but has been stuck in the Madigan-controlled House Rules Committee ever since. While in Rules Committee, the legislation cannot be debated or called up for a House vote.

State Sen. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein) said he also thinks the potential to reduce revenue from red light cameras could be the reason the proposal has stalled.

But Sullivan said increasing the time for every yellow light in Illinois — not just those at intersections with red light cameras — would be going too far.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel right now,” Sullivan said. “We have studies that show what it does. So that’s the first point. It’s safety. So that’s what we’re here for. We have other states that have done it already and are doing studies on how this has affected it.”

Sullivan said Madigan’s priorities are not right if he’s siding with keeping red light camera revenue flowing, rather than improving safety.

Critics of red light camera systems have said they are more about generating money for government coffers, rather than improving safety. Duffy said the whole red-light camera concept is about “nickel and diming people to death, every time they drive through an intersection.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office does not support Duffy’s idea.

“Lengthening yellow lights has adverse safety implications for drivers and pedestrians,” the mayor’s office said in a written statement earlier this year.

Duffy said “that’s mind-boggling.”

“Studies show that adding one second of yellow improves safety from 35 to 90 percent,” he claimed.

A recent study by a University of Illinois traffic expert studied 39 Chicago intersections with red-light cameras and found the number of accidents actually increased after they were installed.