OLYMPIA, Wash. – How long should that traffic signal’s yellow-light stay yellow? A state Senator wants to make sure the length of time is the same throughout the state. And, she wants to make sure they're not timed to catch motorists with red-light traffic cams.
State Senate Randi Becker (R), of Eatonville, has introduced a bill that would regulate how long a yellow-light stays yellow.
She said the problem was brought to her attention by motorists in her district.
"Once it was brought to my attention, I started to notice the different lengths and how long it would take me to stop. I realized we needed some consistency whether the road is state, county or city-owned," Becker said in a press release about her testimony Tuesday before the Senate Transportation Committee.
Becker’s bill would require traffic signals to have yellow-light durations that at least meet federal duration standards.
The Federal Highway Administration uses national standards recommended by The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). MUTCD sets national standards for every sign, signal, pavement marking, and traffic control signal device in the country. The MUTCD recommends yellow-light duration be 3 to 6 seconds (longer times for greater speeds).
Currently, individual cities and counties set the durations.
Becker’s bill sets the durations for all traffic signals, including those equipped with red-light cameras.
The senator is concerned that some signals could be set in order to generate revenue.
"Our citizens deserve better than a 'gotcha' or a bait-and-switch from government. It isn't playing fair to shorten yellow-lights to catch more drivers and raise revenue..." Becker said in the press release. “This is about making sure drivers are getting a fair deal when they travel around the state."
Becker’s bill is Senate Bill 5188.
Editor's note: An initial statement by a Seattle Dept. of Transportation spokesperson that SDOT did change some of the yellow-light times at the request of the police has been retracted by SDOT. The Seattle Police also denies making that request. SDOT says it has never changed a yellow-light duration since the beginning of the red-light traffic camera program. We have removed that passage from the report.