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Public hearing eyes more red-light cameras

Outside the legislative chambers where a public plea

Outside the legislative chambers where a public plea against the Red Light Camera Program to the Suffolk County Legislator, Suffolk County Dept of Public Works Chief Engineer William Hillman PE (right), tries to argue that there are no problems with the operation of the sign lights at the Rogers Legislative building in Hauppauge. (May 8, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Concerns about the duration of the yellow phase of traffic lights dominated a public hearing Tuesday about a proposed law to expand Suffolk County's red-light camera program.

The state has authorized Nassau and Suffolk to expand their programs by an additional 50 intersections each -- double the current number -- and both counties are considering local legislation.

Before the Suffolk Legislature, several residents complained about a lack of oversight of differing intervals for the yellow light at intersections policed by cameras, leaving them unsure what to expect.

Patrick Gallagher of East Setauket, said yellow intervals at some intersections were so short that they could lead to accidents if a motorist braked suddenly. Gallagher, who said he had not been ticketed, called the red light camera program a "money grab" by the county.

Traffic light intervals are set by the state Department of Transportation in accordance with federal guidelines that say the yellow change interval "should have a minimum of 3 seconds and a maximum duration of 6 seconds" and that it "shall be determined using engineering practices."

County chief engineer Bill Hillman said the county's program was driven by safety concerns. He said that when officials began receiving complaints about the yellow times, they contacted the state, and several intersections' yellow phases were lengthened as a result. The county would ask the state to review yellow light periods at the 50 additional intersections if the county moved to expand its program, Hillman said.

Jeffrey Frediani, legislative analyst with AAA New York, said there is substantial evidence that cameras deter red light violations and that surveys showed "greater and greater" support among drivers for their use.

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