Help Us Stop Short Yellow Lights

The National Motorists Association Foundation is organizing a national grassroots effort to publicize and discourage the practice of using traffic signals with short yellow durations as revenue generators at red light ticket camera intersections. The Stop Short Yellow Lights Project will prove how widespread and pervasive this practice is.

What is the Stop Short Yellow Lights Project?

The NMA Foundation has long known that the exploitation of short yellow light times is a common practice in communities using red light ticket cameras. The Stop Short Yellow Lights Project is designed to identify and publicize the locations where the use of short yellow light timing is being used to bolster ticket camera revenue.

How Will Short Yellow Lights Be Identified?

Everyday citizens will be the engine that drives this grassroots effort.

To get involved, people near red-light camera installations will simply use a stopwatch to time the length of the yellow lights. If the yellow light duration appears to be dangerously short, the NMA Foundation will dispatch a trained, objective traffic engineer to confirm the traffic light timing.

Once confirmed, the NMA Foundation will publicize its findings and encourage local officials to take appropriate corrective action. If necessary, legal action may be taken.

What Does The Duration Of A Yellow Light Have To Do With Accident Prevention?

The positive effect of increasing the yellow light time at a troublesome intersection (an increase of one second can reduce violations by 50%) is undisputed by even the most zealous supporters of red-light cameras. Nevertheless, despite clear evidence that is unsafe to do so, several cities have been caught shortening yellow light times to increase red-light camera profits.

How Do Short Yellow Lights Increase Red-Light Camera Profits?

Properly timed yellow lights accommodate the normal perception and reaction times of drivers, as well as the time it takes to safely stop or proceed through the intersection. Deliberately shortening the yellow light duration significantly increases the number of red light violations (and intersection collisions) and thereby the number of citations and revenue are also increased, often dramatically.

Because short yellow lights lead to increased revenue, the incentive to shorten yellow light times is strong for both the red-light camera vendors and the cities that authorize the use of these devices.

What Are The Objectives Of The Stop Short Yellow Lights Project?

  • Identify locations where short yellow lights are being used at intersections employing red light ticket cameras.
  • Publicize these locations and point out dangers of using short yellow lights to boost the revenue from red light ticket cameras.
  • Promote state legislation requiring proper minimum standards for yellow light durations.
  • Eliminate the use of short yellow lights for any purpose, including revenue generation for corporate or governmental interests.

For more information on the project, please visit

Note: Please do not post results in the comments section below. There is a form on the project’s website for that purpose.

Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!

Leave a Comment

17 Responses to “Help Us Stop Short Yellow Lights”

  1. Todd says:

    To National Motorists Association

    Your project is doing a very noble thing because it benefits society.

    How about passing your "Motorists Bill of Rights" as law.

    • Dave says:

      {Ref} quote:If the yellow light duration appears to be dangerously short, the NMA Foundation will dispatch a trained, objective traffic engineer to confirm the traffic light timing.

      Will the NMA Foundation recheck the yellow light duration timing against ITE standards for minimum yellow duration. ITE standard provide longer yellow times than Federal (Missouri) MUTCD. ITE include length of intersection, different deceleration rate and prevailing speed (above) posted speed for yellow time calculation. General rule of thumb (actual) 40plus miles per hour 5second minumum- 6 seconds yellow time maximum with minumum 1/2 second opposing Red to Green delay. The Federal minumum yellow duration time is 3.0 seconds. Shorter than this is breaking the Federal Law of uniform traffic code devices. Hills, decline and weather effect deceleration rate. Posted 25 miles per hour s/b 4.00 seconds minumum yellow duration with conditions mentioned above.

  2. Marie says:

    How many seconds is considered a "short" yellow light? I went through a yellow light at the intersection of Lock Street and Warren Street in Newark, NJ. It turned red while I was already in the intersection. I remember saying to myself that the light turned red very quickly and wouldn't you know, just 20 seconds later, I was being pulled over my a cop. I am absolutely going to fight this as I have a perfect driving record and would never run a red light. Please advise me. Do I need an attorney? This is a matter of principal. I will not plead guilty to something I did not do.

  3. Todd says:

    Marie you ask "How many seconds is considered a “short” yellow light?" I would love to answer that question to you but the problem is that when it comes to considering if the yellow light time is appropriate there are so many varibles to put into the equation. For example a 3 second yellow light time in a 25 mph zone might be appropriate but a 3 second yellow light time for a 45 mph zone might be too short. Determining whether or not the yellow light time is appropriate depends on the relationship between the speed limit for that particular road and the yellow light duration. They both must be in tune with one another. Ok anyway I'm sorry for the long explaination but I'll tell you right now that if you where driving at a reasonable speed for that area and you where close to the intersection when it turned yellow then right after that as you started enter the intersection it became red then it probably was a too short yellow light time. If however you where unreasonably far from the intersection's yellow light and it turned red on you as you went through the intersection then the yellow light time is probably ok because you should have stop.

    My advice to you would be to contact the National Motorists Association and ask them for advice on what you should do. Phone: (608) 849-6000 Fax: (608) 849-8697. Also one commen sense thing would be to not plead guilty.

    I tried the best I could to offer you advice but I'm sorry if it wasn't much help. I hope every thing turns out Ok.

  4. Todd says:

    To Marie

    This time I can answer your question on “How many seconds is considered a “short” yellow light?”

    Do you remember when I said "Determining whether or not the yellow light time is appropriate depends on the relationship between the speed limit for that particular road and the yellow light duration" in my last comment. Well here it is. For speeds of 25 mph or less a 3.0 sec yellow light time is right, 30 mph should have a 3.5 yellow light time, 35 mph should have a 4.0 yellow light time, 40 mph should have a 4.5 yellow light time, 45 mph should have a 5.0 yellow light time, 50 mph should have a 5.5 yellow light time, and 55 mph should have a 6.0 yellow light time.

    WARNING – This information on the relationship between the speed limits and yellow light times is from the National Motorists Association. This is not my information. All of the credit should go to the National Motorists association.

  5. Our problems have only just begun:

    This is going to get much worse before it gets better…


  6. […] make work for politically connected contractors. Instead of longer yellow signals for safety we get shorter ones with red light cameras that make money for government and its contractors at our expense. Time […]

  7. M. Don Hughes says:

    MUTCD (the law) says yellow light timing should be between 3 to 6 seconds.
    This does not account for a delay of a predetermined time if a vehicle is within a specified distance of the light before it turns to red.

    There is an additional allowance (all red light) for clearance of the intersection if you are in that intersection or if you did not have time to stop.

    This option is not taken into allowance by these cameras that take pictures at the end of the yellow light.

    In addition the all red light interval is optional. This is optional because some intersections do not have pedestrians or high traffic. I believe that not using this allowed red light interval in intentional to get more tickets.

  8. M. Don Hughes says:

    RE: MUTCD (the law)
    I forgot to check Notify me.
    But I would like to keep up with this as I have done an exhaustive study of this subject.

  9. […] The NMA (National Motorists Association) Foundation is one organization attempting to address the issue with its Stop Short Yellow Lights Project: […]

  10. Kim Potts says:

    Who can investigate these red ligh camera interections in Arlington, Texas?
    1. Pioneer Parkway and Matlock,
    2 .Pioneer Parkway and Cooper Street
    3. Matlock and Arbrook. Please investigate.

  11. Doc says:

    Ok, this is good and all but WHAT TIME IS CONSIDERED TOO SHORT?

  12. Phil Mckrackin says:

    Quote from article above((What Are The Objectives Of The Stop Short Yellow Lights Project? For more information on the project, please visit

    Phil12/21((Apparently the objective is to get a bunch of idiots running out and timing light intervals and comparing the results to a chart which does not reflect accurate information. The chart says that a 30mph speed zone should have a minimum yellow light time of 3.5 seconds. Ironically ITE publishes a chart and according to their formula(used in the traffic engineers handbook in the section titled traffic control signals) the correct timing should be 3.2 seconds which is rounded up after the formula produces a 3.199 second result for that same 30mph zone. If we use the formula with a 35mph zone the results are 3.56 seconds and rounded up to 3.6 for the ITE chart while the source that the NMA is using references that a correct minimum yellow interval for a 35mph zone should be 4.0 seconds. The rest of the chart is as follows:

    speed ITE results by formula by chart NMA suggested minimum
    40mph 3.93 sec 3.9 sec 4.5 sec
    45mph 4.29 sec 4.3 sec 5.0 sec
    50mph 4.66 sec 4.7 sec 5.5 sec
    55mph 5.03 sec 5.0 sec 6.0 sec
    60mph 5.39 sec 5.4 sec Not listed
    65mph 5.76 sec 5.8 sec not listed

    This comparison of what the ITE suggests and what the formula suggests to what the NMA suports shows you that the NMA is lying to you!

    Also note that the NMA source suggests that a proper MINIMUM yellow change interval for 55mph is 6.0 seconds which exceeds the ITE formula and ITE chart by 1 second and also exceeds the proper yellow change interval as per the ITE formula and chart for a light placed in a speed zone 10mph higher than the one it is actually in. The ITE also tells us a couple of other important things like for yellow change intervals that calculate to values higher than 5.0 seconds the yellow change interval should be set at 5.0 seconds with the remainder of the time being added to the delay of the red to green interval for crossing traffic(otherwise known as the clearance interval or all red interval.) The ITE also tells us that yellow change intervals that are timed too long may encourage drivers to use the yellow change interval as an extension of the green interval(they will enter the intersection unlawfully). This is not a unique case with the NMA presenting less than accurate information as fact or presenting outright wrong information as fact. Why would the NMA be so dishonest in showing you the data, statistics or other factual information such as the proper timing chart for yellow change intervals? If they lie to you here about something that trivial just to make it appear as more traffic lights are improperly timd than actually are what else will they lie to you about? Promoting incorrectly long yellow change intervals is playing with your families safety and for what? To eliminate red light cameras and stop unlawful red light runners from being cited? Please check the so called facts contained here in any of these editorial articles before you give your support, donations or you use this bad information that you trust and get hurt or killed.))

  13. kieming says:


  14. kieming says:


  15. thaddeus says:

    Oakbrook Terrace is another place that has a short yellow light, as you drive west on roosevelt rd. just past rt. 83, the first street you come to has such a light, as the left turn arrow turns green you better hit the gas pedal fast, that yellow light is just over one second long, the cops are sitting there waiting to write you a ticket, it happened to me, after i got my ticket i went back to watch this light, that cop was back there waiting and sure enough he got another car, and then another car, i,m sure they make a lot of money there, too bad i didn't have my baseball bat with me, i would love to teach them a lesson…….Todziu

  16. bceccarelli says:

    While you use your stopwatch to time the yellows, that does not work well for legal purposes. For legal purposes, you can go directly to your City or DOT and ask them for the "Traffic Signal Plan" for the specific intersection. It is public information. A traffic signal plan contains phase diagrams and the timing chart. With the phase diagrams and the timing chart, you know exactly the duration to which the traffic engineer set the yellow time.

    This information is most condemning. For you will find that most often, the yellows are shorter than either ITE or AASHTO spec. And you will other "specs", like that for a separately phased left turn yellow, at play which tell an engineer they can ignore the ITE equation altogether. In so doing, violating every aspect of Newton's Laws of Motion. In legal speak, all such settings are "arbitrary and capricious".