Have You Noticed that Chicago Yellow Light Times are Shorter than in the Suburbs?

About ten years ago there was a lot of talk regarding yellow light times.  Specifically, Chicago times seemed shorter than those in surrounding communities.  This discussion was precipitated by widespread adoption of red light cameras in the area.

Illinois local governments generated more than $1 billion in red-light camera revenue from 2008 to 2018, according to analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute.

The video above compares a Chicago yellow light to one in suburban Elmhurst, both on major streets.  The one in Elmhurst is significantly longer.

There is much room for debate.  A higher posted speed limit, for instance, theoretically requires a longer yellow to allow enough time for slowing.  Traffic tends to move faster in the suburbs.

However, several Georgia cities in 2009 yanked cameras after a new state law forced yellows to be lengthened and violations plummeted.

That same year the suburb of Loma Linda, CA, east of Los Angeles, increased yellow times from three to four seconds at four camera-monitored intersections and also saw a big falloff in tickets. “If politicians refuse to lengthen yellow lights and still claim red-light cameras are all about safety, then they are liars,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rhodes Rigsby.

Given Chicago’s political track record and the millions made every year from automated traffic enforcement it is a fair bet that driver safety is not the first consideration.

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