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Madrid, Spain Caught Issuing Red Light Camera Tickets On Yellow

March 31, 2010

Madrid, Spain Caught Issuing Red Light Camera Tickets On Yellow
Red light camera tickets issued to drivers running yellow light in Madrid, Spain. 

Yellow  light runningThe city of Madrid, Spain has been issuing red light camera tickets to drivers who entered an intersection while the light was yellow, not red. The European Motorists Association (AEA) uncovered the serious miscalibration of the capital city’s automated ticketing machines earlier this month, suggesting that thousands of citations have been issued to motorists who did nothing wrong. Each ticket is worth 200 euros (US $270) and four points.

“We have evidence that red light running tickets are being given to motorists who passed through on yellow and being so near to the stop bar they could not stop in safety,” AEA President Mario Arnaldo said in a statement. “The city must not only cease the use of this system of dubious reliability, it must cancel the tickets that have been processed so far.”

Section 146 of the country’s highway code states that drivers who face a steady yellow light must stop unless they are too close to the intersection to do so safely. A machine is not able to evaluate the circumstances to determine automatically whether stopping would have been a safe option under the circumstances. AEA collected at least sixty examples since the cameras were installed in November where tickets were issued for yellow light running offenses where the driver was very close to the stop bar when the light changed. City officials refuse to acknowledge that ticketing under such circumstances is a problem.

“It seems frivolous that the drivers’ association would question the legitimacy of a road safety system,” Madrid transportation director Fernando Autran responded. “We are talking about lives of citizens and avoiding risks to pedestrians, and it appears that this organization is trying to establish the legitimacy of a traffic violation.”

In the US, automated tickets are not issued while the light is yellow. Instead, the private companies that operate the camera systems issue the tickets a fraction of a second after the yellow phase ends. The vast majority of “violations” caught on camera happen after drivers misjudge the end of the yellow light by less than 0.25 seconds — literally the blink of an eye (view chart). This timing is so quick that, in rare circumstances, an intersection may even simultaneously display yellow and red lights.

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