The Doc has managed to avoid the often incendiary topic of red light cameras for some time, but the flood of reader mail prompted me to contact Michael Frederick, St. Petersburg's manager of neighborhood transportation. I asked him to address a few questions posed by reader Dolores Pepe because her letter was reflective of many. She wrote:
"The Florida driver's manual states that when a traffic light turns yellow, motorists should 'stop if you can.' While I try very hard to do this, sometimes it is not possible, as when you reach an intersection and at that moment the light turns yellow. If you slam on your brakes, you risk a rear-end collision, or you could end up stopped in the middle of the intersection. If you go through an intersection when the light is yellow, do the cameras consider that going through a red light? At what point is a picture taken? My worry is that if I go through on yellow, it is possible that the back of my car may not be entirely through the intersection when the light turns red and to me, this would not be 'running a red light' but the cameras may be calibrated differently."
Frederick said a violation occurs only when a vehicle enters the intersection after the signal turns red. The key word here is "after." That means if your vehicle is over the white stop bar when the signal is amber, no need to slam on the brakes — no violation and no citation.
The system activates when motion is detected beyond the white stop bar after the traffic signal has turned red. The cameras capture two images of a violation. The first shows the vehicle at the white stop bar and the illuminated red light, and the second shows the vehicle in the middle of the intersection with the red light illuminated. Information including the time, date and duration of the yellow and red lights is recorded and video cameras capture a 12-second shot of the violation. And, yes, there is an appeals process if you receive a citation in the mail that you believe is incorrect.
"A good way to judge if you can make it through an intersection when a signal turns amber is by using the solid lane lines on the approach to the intersection,'' Frederick said. "The solid lane line is not just a no-passing zone, they also create a 'dilemma zone.' The solid lane line is measured to a specific length and if you are traveling at the speed limit and your vehicle is outside the solid area when the signal turns amber, you should have time to stop. Conversely, if your vehicle is within the solid lane line area when the signal turns amber, you should be able to make it through the intersection before it turns red. This will help you avoid a rear-end collision.''
Frederick encourages readers to check out the city's Stop On Red Traffic Safety Program online at stpete.org/stoponred. The page features a printable brochure that details the camera program and answers frequently asked questions. There is a three-minute video that explains in detail how the cameras work, what constitutes a violation, how a violation is processed and issued and more.
• Expect lane closures and traffic shifts along eastbound and westbound lanes of Gulfport Boulevard, leaving one lane open each way at Oleander Way S as work on a sewer line continues. The project is scheduled to wrap up in early November.
• The ongoing project to replace a water main along Belcher Road, which began in June 2010, is humming along. Here's the latest as work progresses on the 3-mile construction route: Traffic has been shifted south of the intersection of East Bay Drive on South Belcher Road. Two southbound lanes of Belcher Road (the left and middle) have been closed.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring!
E-mail Dr. Delay at DocDelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity. Follow the Doc on Facebook by searching for Ask Dr. Delay.