Reader questions yellow light timing on 41st Ave.

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I would like your help in getting more information about a red light camera situation at 41st Avenue and Clares Street. I got a $489 ticket there recently and when I went for arraignment in traffic court, I found that there were at least six other people in the room who were there for the same infraction. In checking the California 2003 Supplement of the Manual of Universal Traffic Control Devices, page 27 of Chapter 4D, 'Traffic Control Signal Features,' I found that the state's requirements for the interval of time between the beginning of the yellow light until it turns red in a 35 mph speed limit zone is 3.6 seconds. When I later returned to the 'scene of the crime' and timed the yellow light, I got anywhere from 2.8 to 3.2 seconds. This disparity in timing, plus the volume of people I saw in traffic court that day, makes me wonder if this is just a tricky way to enhance revenue. Thanks, Beverly Jones via email A: This issue comes up often, said Steve Jesberg, Capitola's public works director. The yellow light length there, as well as tat he light on 41st in front of the mall, are on par with state requirements and they're checked monthly to make sure they stay that way, he said. Caltrans' 3.6 second yellow light length rule for streets with a 35 mph speed limit went into effect in 2005, Jesberg said. Capitola complied in 2006. Prior to that, the lights were required to hold for 3 seconds, he explained. If you're looking to successfully fight the ticket, try videotaping the light in inaction. However, remember that yellow means slow down and prepare to stop, not hit the accelerator to try to beat it. So, the timing question may be moot. An end to the merging question? Two weeks ago, Street Smarts printed a question from a reader regarding the proper procedure for merging from a lane closed by construction into a neighboring unaffected lane. The advice given was to get out of that lane as soon as the driver sees the “Lane Closed Ahead” sign to minimize the impact on traffic flow. Emails and comments questioning that advice continue to come in. Below is advice from a different source – Officer Sarah Jackson, CHP spokesperson: “In the interest of the smooth flow of traffic and commerce on our roadways, merging smoothly and early causes less delay for those behind you,” she said. “Every time one driver must apply their brakes to let in a late merger, the ripple effect in slowed traffic continues for much longer than you might expect.” Meanwhile, check out the California Driver Handbook's section on sharing the road with road workers. Also, note that traffic violations in construction zones will result in a $1,000 fine.
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