According to a new class action lawsuit, they are. With the support of data from AAA engineers, the suit alleges that traffic lights with cameras have distinctly shorter yellow light periods, leading more people to run reds and be ticketed, generating revenue for the city. “Well, when the amber lights are too short, people are getting cited, we think, unfairly,” said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair. “If you’re timing them too short, then it just becomes a revenue enhancement tool and it erodes support for a red-light camera program.” According to federal law, yellow lights must last long enough for drivers to get through safely–roughly three seconds. But the study found that the yellow period camera-enforced lights was nearly a half-second shorter.
The lawsuit alleges fraud against the city and the camera system, which generated $235 million in revenue over the past five years. The Department of Transportation is having none of it. “There has been no substantiation that any red-light cameras in this report were improperly timed or led to any violation being issued incorrectly,” it said in a statement.