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Lawmaker wants to lengthen yellow lights, reduce fines

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate that risky yellow light decision by changing its length. (AP)

To speed up or to slam on the brakes? That is the question as you approach yellow light at an intersection with a red light camera.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate that risky decision by changing the length of the yellow light.

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State Rep. Cary Condotta has faced that decision in his home district of Wenatchee, and he believes tweaking the yellow light will make those intersections safer and reduce tickets.

“I know, from my own experience in Wenatchee, driving through these particular intersections – you’re either slamming on the brakes or slamming on the gas if it turns yellow,” he said. “If we had four seconds, I think we’d eliminate about half of those tickets.”

He wants the yellow light at every red light camera intersection to be at least four seconds long.

“If you lengthen the yellow lights to four seconds, the number of tickets drops dramatically,” Condotta said. “Of course, that’s a problem for the camera company because they want the shortest duration possible.”

Another part of his bill would reduce the fine from $124 to $25, though he says he would be flexible on that amount because nearly half of that money ends up going to the camera company.

Condotta wants to remove the financial incentive from the equation.

“Forty-six percent of the money goes to the camera company, really?” he asked. “What are we doing here? I mean we’re making a lot of money for camera companies. We’re making money for the cities and yet the infractions keep going up.”

A few cities have dumped their red light cameras after finding that they weren’t really reducing accidents like they had hoped or because the revenue model wasn’t working out.

Condotta hopes his bill will convince other cities to do the same.

“We’ve tried to ban them several times,” he said. “I will tell you that if you go to four seconds (on the yellow) and drop the fine, I think the things disappear.”

This is the third red light camera or speed zone camera bill introduced this legislative session. It’s a sign that lawmakers still aren’t sold on the idea.

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