NATIONAL MOTORISTS ASSOCIATION

Empowering Drivers Since 1982
402 West 2nd Street Waunakee, Wisconsin 53597-1342 Telephone: 608-849-6000 Fax: 888-787-0381 E-mail: nma@motorists.org Website: www.motorists.org

February 3, 2014

The Honorable Thomas Davis Rust Chairman, House Transportation Committee Virginia House of Delegates Richmond, Virginia Dear Chairman Rust: Re: HOUSE BILL 973 – REPEAL OF RED LIGHT CAMERA LAW

As you may have heard, the National Motorists Association (NMA) has been alleging that the cities of Virginia Beach and Newport News are operating red light cameras on turn lanes with yellow intervals that violate Virginia’s red light camera law. We are writing to explain why. Several methods have been published for establishing yellow intervals. Among them are: 1. The “ITE methodology” published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers in 1985. 2. VDOT’s internal guidelines, which VDOT uses for the 3,000 traffic signals under its jurisdiction. The state’s red light camera law explicitly requires that the ITE methodology be used at cameraenforced intersections. This gives the driver who is at the worst possible place when the signal changes from green to yellow enough yellow time to reach the stopping line before the signal changes to red. VDOT uses the ITE methodology only for straight-through lanes. VDOT shaves time off of right-turn and left-turn yellow intervals to improve operational efficiency. In fact, just last year, VDOT shaved an additional 0.4 second off of left-turn yellow intervals. VDOT’s internal guidelines save time, save fuel and reduce congestion without reducing safety if no cameras are present. However, they are not designed for, and are not compatible with, red light cameras. The VDOT guidelines create what is known to traffic engineers as a “dilemma zone.” During free-flow conditions, drivers caught in a dilemma zone cannot stop without excessive braking, and cannot possibly reach the stopping line before the signal changes to red. If no cameras are present, drivers caught in a dilemma zone simply continue their turn. They do not slam on brakes. The turns are safely completed during the all-red clearance interval when signals in all directions are red for a few seconds. But if cameras are present, good drivers often slam on brakes to avoid a $50 citation, often in violation of Virginia’s reckless driving statute. Accordingly, the NMA has been recommending that the modern VDOT internal guidelines be used on all traffic signals except at camera-enforced intersections, where the ITE methodology must be used so that drivers will not need to slam on brakes.

House Transportation Committee Page 2 of 3 February 3, 2014

Our study of the 106 camera-enforced lanes in Virginia Beach revealed that all of them meet or exceed VDOT’s internal guidelines, but that 15 have illegal sub-ITE yellow intervals. All are right-turn lanes. More than 200,000 illegal camera citations have been issued on these 15 lanes since the cameras were installed in 2009. Our study of the 28 camera-enforced lanes in Newport News revealed that all of them meet VDOT’s internal guidelines, but that 12 have illegal sub-ITE yellow intervals. Eleven of them are left-turn lanes; one is a right-turn lane. As of August 9, 2013, Newport News had issued 46,951 illegal citations on these 12 lanes since the cameras were installed in 2010. Most studies show that red light cameras cause an increase in rear-end crashes. The counter-argument is that camera-enforcement reduces serious T-bone crashes and that the larger number of rear-end collisions are a justifiable tradeoff. We tested that theory by studying the injury crash data for the intersection in Virginia Beach and the intersection in Newport News that had the highest number of the camera citations. In Virginia Beach, the intersection of Virginia Beach Blvd and Independence Blvd had 29 injury crashes in the three years after the installation of red light cameras, compared to 14 injury crashes in the three years before, an increase of 107%. In Newport News, the intersection of Oyster Point Rd and Jefferson Avenue has had an average of 18.6 injury crashes per year since cameras were installed in 2010, compared to an average of 12.3 injury crashes per year during the 3-year period before cameras were installed, an increase of 50.5%. Thus, the theory that serious crashes are decreased does not appear to apply to intersections with subITE yellow intervals that are incompatible with camera-enforcement. The cities of Virginia Beach and Newport News have both known at least since September that yellow intervals on certain turn lanes are too short and that camera-enforcement is sending people to the hospital. Neither city has taken any steps to reduce the bloodshed. Instead, the City of Virginia Beach recently renewed its contract with vendor Redflex of Australia. In view of this, it is apparent that the best way to stop turn lane abuses is to repeal the red light camera statute. Accordingly, the NMA requests that this Committee pass House Bill 973 on to the House floor. Thank you for your interest in the safety and rights of motorists. Sincerely, NATIONAL MOTORISTS ASSOCIATION

J. J. (Joe) Bahen Life Member

House Transportation Committee Page 3 of 3 February 3, 2014

J. J. Bahen, Jr., P.E., MITE 412 Parview Place Glen Allen, VA 23059 (804) 741-0462 JoeBahenPE@gmail.com

www.motorists.org
Copy: Members of House Transportation Committee The Honorable Timothy D. Hugo The Honorable Edward T. Scott The Honorable Ronald A. Villanueva The Honorable Barbara J. Comstock The Honorable T. Scott Garrett The Honorable Gregory D. Habeeb The Honorable Richard L. Anderson The Honorable J. Randall Minchew The Honorable David E. Yancey The Honorable James M. LeMunyon The Honorable Glenn R. Davis The Honorable Scott W. Taylor The Honorable Terry L. Austin The Honorable Dave A. LaRock The Honorable Jeion A. Ward The Honorable Mamye E. BaCote The Honorable Robert H. Brink The Honorable David J. Toscano The Honorable Delores L. McQuinn The Honorable Betsy B. Carr The Honorable Eileen Filler-Corn The Honorable Benjamin L. Cline The Honorable Joseph D. Morrissey City of Virginia Beach c/o Legislative Liaison Robert R. Matthias et al. City of Newport News c/o Legislative Liaison Jerri Wilson et al. Virginia Department of Highways c/o Legislative Liaison Richard L. Walton, Esq., et al. Institute of Transportation Engineers c/o Douglas E. Noble, P.E., et al. The Rutherford Institute c/o John W. Whitehead, Esq., et al. AAA Mid-Atlantic c/o Martha M. Meade et al. ACLU of Virginia c/o Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Esq.