[UPDATED] Tallahassee Responds to Red Light Camera Dispute

By: Candace Sweat Email
By: Candace Sweat Email

UPDATED 5/12/11 at 11:30pm By Candace Sweat

The City of Tallahassee is responding to the accusations of a faulty red light camera. But the man making those accusations is not backing down.

A little yellow light at the corner of Killearn Center Blvd and Capital Circle Northeast is causing a big disagreement between the city of Tallahassee and resident Todd Twillley.

But it's complicated, so you may want to pull out your calculators.

Todd Twilley says he simply wasn't given enough time to make it through the yellow light at the corner of Killearn Center Blvd and Capital Circle. The yellow light in the left turn lane lasts 3.3 seconds, but Twilley says it should last 4.3 seconds.

"We get to the conclusion that the city is wrong," said Twilley.

That's why he's going to court; to prove that despite being seen in this video turning at the change of a yellow light, his violation should be dismissed.

City officials admit that the yellow light in the left turn lane is shorter than the yellow light in the through lanes. But they say they're in compliance with the rules and regulations, and they have the math and measurements to prove it.

"You can see him going through the red light right here. We use an approach speed of 30 mph. The resulting calculation shows that the yellow time for the left turn is about 3.2 seconds," said Gabriel Menendez, Tallahassee Public Works Director.

They say they use this formula published in the D-O-T Traffic Engineering Manual, which calculates how long the yellow light should be by factoring in variables such as reaction time and approaching speed.

Twilley says his problem isn't with the formula, but the fact that the city is timing the that yellow light on an approaching speed of 30 miles per hour.

He sites section 4 of the Traffic Engineering Manual: "Approach speed used in this section is the posted speed or the 85th percentile approach speed, whichever is greater."

"That's key, whichever is greater. You use the 85th percentile or the posted speed limit, whichever is grater," said Twilley.

Twilley and city officials are scheduled to appear in court on July 13th where both are expected to present their findings on the rules and regulations of red light cameras.

This isn't the first time this dispute has come up in Florida. A Collier County man won a case after proving that his yellow light did not adhere to state regulations.
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[UPDATED 5:40 P.M. May 12, 2011]

Letter from Assistant to the City Manager Michelle Bono:

Manager, Mayor & City Commissioners:

Yesterday afternoon at Leon County Traffic Court, an individual named Jamie T. Twilley asked that his red light safety camera violation be dismissed because Mr. Twilley did not believe the city’s yellow light timing at the intersection of Capital Circle N.E. and Killearn Center Blvd. was in compliance with State Statues, which reference FDOT requirements. The case was continued until July 13 so that the city would have a chance to respond to the issue. Accordingly, both Channel 6 and WFLA radio have covered the story last night and this morning. Last night Gabe Menendez was able to respond that all of our traffic signals are timed by a Licensed Timing Engineer in accordance with the Institute of Transportation Engineers Signal Timing Handbook, which is in accordance with FDOT requirements.

Mr. Twilley ran the red light while making a left turn onto Killearn Center Blvd from northbound Capital Circle (under the flyover, headed toward Timberlane). Mr. Twilley’s red light violation notice indicated that there were 3.3 seconds of yellow time on the left turn light at the time of the violation. He states that there should have been 4.3 seconds since the posted speed was 45 miles per hour. He references a chart from the FDOT Traffic Engineering Manual. His assumption is based on posted speed, whereas the FDOT Traffic Engineering Manual utilizes a formula based upon approach speed.

There are many factors involved when calculating a signal’s phase timing which includes the green, yellow, and red intervals. The yellow clearance interval for each vehicle approach of an intersection depends on the following factors: average approach speed, approach percentage grade (the grade of the road – uphill, downhill, flat), reaction time, and vehicle deceleration rate. Please note that the average approach speed is not always the posted speed limit, although it can be. For left-turn and right-turn movements the posted speed limit is not used because the approach speeds are significantly lower than the posted speed limit due to the turning maneuver.

Consequently, we consistently treat all left-turn movements as having an average approach speeds lower than the posted through speed. In the recently mentioned case regarding the red light violator, the statement was made that the yellow light change interval must be 4.3 seconds if the approaching speed at the intersection is 45 miles per hour (mph). In the left-turn lane noted above, it is inappropriate to use a 45 mile per hour (mph) approach speed, since the posted speed is not reflective of the actual left turn approach speeds. The average approach speed of 30 mph was used in the yellow clearance interval calculation at the intersection, as certified by a Licensed Signal Timing Engineer resulting in a yellow clearance interval of 3.2 seconds. The camera indicated he actually had 3.3 seconds. It is interesting to note that on Mr. Twilley’s violation the actual approach speed of his car was measured at 27 miles per hour.

Now that we have the facts in hand, we will be sharing this information with the news media who have previously reported on this case. If you have any questions, please don’t’ hesitate to contact Gabe Menendez. In addition, staff will be bringing back a full report on the Red Light Safety Camera Program to you in the next month.

Michelle
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Todd Twilley went to traffic court Wednesday afternoon with about an inch of papers stating that the red light violation he received on the corner of Killearn Center Blvd and Capital Circle northeast should be dismissed.

"The light seemed really short to me, the yellow light. So when I did my research into what the minimum state requirement were for yellow lights, I found this one to be too short," said Twilley.

On a road like Capital Circle Northeast, where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour, D.O.T says the yellow light should last for 4.3 seconds. But Twilley's violation said the light changed after 3.3 seconds.

In a graph published by the Department of Transportation, the Florida yellow light change interval is outlined. It says if the approaching speed at the intersection is 45 miles per hour, the yellow light must remain for 4.3 seconds.

"The Institute of Transportation Engineers has a procedure for establishing yellow and red lights, and we follow that. We did a complete certification on all the signals where we installed red light cameras and we found that they are adequately timed," said Gabriel Menendez, Director of Public Works.

The 2010 Florida Statute 316.0745 states "It shall be unlawful for any public official to purchase or for anyone to sell any traffic control signal or device unless it conforms with the manual specifications published by the Department of Transportation..."

So Twilley's question is, if statues say that, why did he receive a ticket at a light that changes to red at 3.3 second instead of 4.3 seconds.

Twilley's case was postponed until July 13th.


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  • by Irritated Location: Driver on Aug 18, 2011 at 03:42 PM
    I believe that the red-light camera program "designed for our safety" is actually encouraging drivers to speed even more through these intersections. And as we have all been made aware by Mr. Twilley's case, the yellow lights are shorter than the standards set forth by the DOT. Of course this is of no concern because it's only $158 and we are much safer now.....right.....sure. I suggest we abandon the program and let the city stick to taking our money the old fashioned way, taxes.
  • by NMG Location: Apalachee Prky on Aug 7, 2011 at 10:37 PM
    Got my ticket at this intersection- Left turn Apalachee Parkway onto South Magnolia. The light was clearly yellow; slamming on my brakes I would have ended up in the middle of the street. Good chance I have brake damage and I'm out of $158.00. But what I don't understand if this was in the "City of Tallahasse" why am I mailing my payment to Denver, CO?
  • by Anonymous on Jul 8, 2011 at 04:38 PM
    Joan you ar so right. I was headed east on Apalachee yesterday at Magnolia and I am pretty sure that the yellow light at that intersection is shorter than elsewhere . I had to slam on my brakes and I ended up half way across the white line. I did not go through the intersection or into the cross walk but my car was half way across the white line before the crosswalk. I probably did damage to my brakes, too.
  • by Joan Location: Apalachee Pkw on Jun 24, 2011 at 09:26 AM
    I just got a ticket for left turning at red light at the Apalachee Parkway and South Magnolia, in the same situation as the story above. The yellow light was only 3s and I was 0.3 second late to cross the proverbial line (45mph zone as well). My speed was 24.5 mph. And I did press my break but it was too late to stop. It seems they are encouraging people to accelerate when the yellow light is on.
  • by Lisa Location: Tallahassee on May 26, 2011 at 09:28 PM
    These camera's are a total scam. I got a ticket for running a red light in a double RIGHT turn lane at the corner of Tennessee Street and cap. Circle. This was back in January. In the month of January alone, there were 649 cam tickets issued at that location. The change from yield to stop on red in a right turn lane at that intersection was never publicized, or marked as "new". In March, after many complaints, they finally put up a sign warning of the new law/light.... Let me add that my yellow light was only 3 seconds(in a 45mph zone) and I was only 2/10ths of a second late in crossing the proverbial line. I'm challenging this as well.
  • by Rodney Location: Killearn on May 13, 2011 at 06:49 PM
    The city budget is just as inflated and over weight as the officer in this video.
  • by Paul Henry Location: Tallahassee on May 13, 2011 at 06:10 PM
    From the story: "You can see him going through the red light..." No, you can't. You can see a vehicle go through the intersection. Unlike a real police officer making a traffic stop, there is no one from the city/county/state that can testify that a specific person was driving the vehicle on camera. The law requires the vehicle owner to either confess or to identify via affidavit another driver. In principle, this violates the concept of innocent until proven guilty, something we've had here for a long time. Even Russia came around to this line of thought after their constitution was revised in 1992. If the cameras are about safety, why are no points put on licenses and car insurance prohibited from being raised by the camera law? Points were brought about to get bad drivers off the road. If you get & pay 4 speeding tickets (or running red lights by real officers) in a year, you'll lose your license for 30 days, and your car insurance will likely be raised.
  • by "RED" RIGHT Location: TALLA-TRASHY on May 13, 2011 at 05:24 PM
    Charge the guy for running the red light and for tail gating. The city should counter sue for legal charges. Maybe they could get back some of the $300k they just paid to a drug dealer's family.
  • by anon on May 13, 2011 at 04:00 PM
    When you are doing the speed limit and even slowing down, the traffic is bound to REAR-END you if you slam on breaks for these stupid yellow lights that turn red at the blink of an eye. The red light system is dangerous beyond belief. For the children in the back seat, and for the driver.
  • by Anonymous on May 13, 2011 at 10:47 AM
    i think its fair that he pay the fine, but i believe the light timings should be 4.3 seconds if they are going to have a red light camera. that's cheating, in his case he may have been wrong, but think about all the people who have paid $154 and didn't REALLY deserve it.
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