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Shorter yellow lights boost red-light camera revenue

Some cities have reportedly found a new way to make money out of red-light cameras. They are shortening the time that the yellow light is on.

The annals of capitalism are full of ingenious money-making ruses.

These are the kinds of things that have the potential to turn you into an ax assaulter. My favorite has always been ticket Web sites that charge you a convenience fee when the convenience is actually being delivered by something they don't own--it's called the Web.

There may, however, now be a new capitalist champion of gall. According to AlterNet, some of the more enterprising and caring cities of the United States have used their almost limitless brains to increase the revenues they accrue from red-light cameras.

Are they placing strategically undressed out-of-work pole dancers around the traffic light poles to encourage a little untimely accelerator pressure? No, they're shortening the time that the yellow light is on.

This is almost as clever as the iPod. It's so simple. It's so effortless. Surely they will charge a convenience fee just for privilege of being caught by a yellow light that is there one second and magically gone the next.

Yellow light? What yellow light? CC Functoruser/Flickr

You will, I am sure, be wondering if your own city is one of the progressive urbanities that has taken this positive step toward whipping red-light-running humanity. Well, according to the National Motorists Association, these six cities have been cited as reducing the yellow light duration: Dallas, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Springfield, Missouri; Lubbock, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Union City, Calif. The question now is how many more might have joined the fold of the enlightened.

I know some of you will be concerned that red-light cameras don't actually slow people down. I know that speed readers among you will point to evidence that these cameras might cause more accidents.

Others of you (anarchists, no doubt) will tell me that in Seattle some cameras might even be illegally situated.

Several of you might even want to scream that in 15 states, red-light cameras are prohibited under state law. Well, I will tell you that one of those states is Utah and we all know that many entirely bizarro things go on in Utah.

No, shortening yellow lights is thunderously exciting news.

So what if Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association, told AlterNet that "the larger issue today is that the duration of so many yellow lights has never been adequately set for optimal safety results. An increase of approximately one second can reduce the frequency of red-light-running by at least 50 percent."

And so very, very what if he added: "The kind of red-light running that causes the serious broadside accidents touted by the camera companies are those where the vehicles enter the intersection three seconds or more after red."

Can we really trust engineers and people with large analytical brains to decide how long yellow lights should be illuminated at different intersections? Politicians have always made better decisions than engineers. You only need to look at their personal lives to realize that.

No, people are merely slightly glorified animals. People in cars, even less slightly. They only understand absolutes, not gray areas. Come to think of it, why have yellow lights at all? Let's just go from green to red. Then it'll be even easier to catch the bad guys.

It's like waterboarding. You just know it works, right?