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Italian Red Lights Rigged With Short Yellow Light 353

Posted by timothy
from the decent-pellet-gun-might-help dept.
suraj.sun writes with an excerpt from Ars Technica which brings to mind the importance of auditable code for hardware used in law enforcement: "It's no secret that red light cameras are often used to generate more ticket revenue for the cities that implement them, but a scam has been uncovered in Italy that has led to one arrest and 108 investigations over traffic systems being rigged to stop sooner for the sole purpose of ticketing more motorists."
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Italian Red Lights Rigged With Short Yellow Light

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  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @10:59PM (#26747637)

    Too bad that them reducing the yellow will probably make the intersection more dangerous.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:02PM (#26747653)
    Local Authorities in the US have been doing this for years; just no one's been caught rigging.
  • whine... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by macshit (157376) <(gro.ung) (ta) (selim)> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:04PM (#26747665) Homepage

    The headline case may (or may not) be true, but the FA continues on to whine randomly about traffic lights and speed cameras in general.

    I know many people consider a yellow light to mean "floor it", and think running a red light is not a big deal, but please, don't expect a whole lot of sympathy when you get caught doing it.

    Traffic laws by and large exist for good reasons: You're driving around an extremely dangerous machine at high speeds, and rules are necessary to reduce the carnage.

  • Re:whine... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by triffid_98 (899609) * on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:34PM (#26747851)
    Actually I got one of those camera tickets just last year. I exited the freeway, merged between a large commercial truck and another car, and passed through an intersection (all within around 150 feet of travel). click, click, please deposit $200+points on your license.

    There was no way to see that the truck in front of me was running a yellow light, I couldn't even see the light. The judge disagreed (even after he reviewed the video), case closed, thanks for playing.

    I don't expect anyone's sympathy over it, but I thought I'd share.

    The headline case may (or may not) be true, but the FA continues on to whine randomly about traffic lights and speed cameras in general.

    I know many people consider a yellow light to mean "floor it", and think running a red light is not a big deal, but please, don't expect a whole lot of sympathy when you get caught doing it.

  • Re:whine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:41PM (#26747891)

    Then you were following too close.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:44PM (#26747919)

    Some cities? I'd say it's more than that. There's a lot of places that cheap out on giving adequate yellow time.

    But I have seen some other areas do a thing which I thought was odd at first, but makes sense. That is they have a one to two second 4 way red between swapping the roads that are given the green. It's helpful for clearing an intersection where there's a lot of left turn traffic.

    It would also be nice if minimum yellow time could be put into federal law. That way people would have some kind of recourse for places that aren't currently playing fair. (In some areas, the red-light cams are being used like the old fashoined and sneakily located speed traps. Out of towners get caught by yellows that are way way too short.)

  • by phosphorylate this (1412807) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:51PM (#26747987)

    Umm, corrupt Italian police break the law, circumventing safety and endangering lives by deliberately increasing fines for profit. Non-corrupt police notice and fix the problem.

    - This article may not provide the police bashing people are after here folks.

  • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:54PM (#26748003) Homepage

    um, are you implying that this isn't news because all traffic signals are rigged with short yellow lights?

    assuming that this is a common practice, the fact that those responsible for rigging the traffic lights are being prosecuted is still newsworthy. it's not everyday that 63 municipal police, 39 municipal government officials, and 7 government contractors are accused of conspiracy and corruption.

    if nothing, this case has brought international media attention to a potentially widespread problem--and not just with rigged lights but all traffic camera systems. if journalists don't report on such stories, then the issue would probably be ignored rather than bringing traffic cameras under public scrutiny.

    and if you know that your hometown has rigged traffic cameras, then maybe you should report the problem to the proper authorities or file a lawsuit against the city. acting as if government corruption should just be accepted (or ignored) is precisely the kind of public complacency that allows corrupt officials to remain in power.

  • Re:whine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tftp (111690) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:59PM (#26748043) Homepage

    If you don't have time to create sufficient separation when approaching an intersection then just assume it's red and start to stop until you can verify that the light is actually green.

    Unfortunately there are cars behind you, and if their drivers can see the [green] light (because they are farther and their view is not obstructed) they'd have no reason to think that you will be slowing down, and so they might slam right into you.

  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:08AM (#26748095)

    What's true in theory is entirely irrelevant when in reality shorter yellows have been found to be more dangerous.

    But they're also more profitable, so I guess that's a win for the state.

  • Re:whine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:10AM (#26748109)

    Unfortunately there are cars behind you, and if their drivers can see the [green] light (because they are farther and their view is not obstructed) they'd have no reason to think that you will be slowing down, and so they might slam right into you.

    That's why there's a such thing as brake lights. A car in front of you can stop at any time, and any driver that hits a car simply because they stopped or slowed down when they weren't expecting it is simply on borrowed time.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:13AM (#26748143)

    It is very common to see people lock down when it goes yellow so approaching either of the two I go through does require extra caution.

    The auto insurance companies have consistently lobbied against red light ticket cameras for precisely this reason. They are invariably set to shorter yellows to maximize ticket revenue which results in more lock downs and rear end collisions as drivers slam on the brakes with little or no warning at the last second to avoid a ticket. Traffic cameras are about getting more revenue for the city operating them NOT traffic safety.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:20AM (#26748195)

    traffic lights. Whether that means to have a big single-digit countdown clock (for last 10 seconds, usuable for any color light) or simply start blinking at a faster and faster rate last 10 seconds right before it changes (again, any color light).

    It would also help with conserving gas, so from farther away you can adjust your speed by being given info on what that light will be 300ft down the road.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:34AM (#26748275)

    No it's more dangerous because people over compensate for the yellow they've seen be shorter and the camera they know is there.

    And hence they slam on the brakes when it isn't in fact safe to do so, and the guy behind rear ends them.

    Yes that is entirely the fault of the guy behind following too close (plus assuming the other guy would go through the yellow because he clearly would have to jam on the brakes to stop in time, which isn't what you are supposed to do since it's "too close to stop safely" - which is still the guy behinds fault since he rear ended someone who wasn't driving backwards).

    Short yellows and red light camera's increase the number of rear end collisions at intersections. Of course trading more read end collisions for fewer t-bone collisions is usually a reasonable trade off. Shortening the yellow is clearly just revenue raising, and will increase the number of collisions with I would expect no significant reduction in the number of "ran red light collisions" over just adding the red light camera.

  • Re:whine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:39AM (#26748301)

    If you're coasting to a stop, not using any brakes, then you're deceleration rate is REALLY slow. Slow enough that a drive behind you can simply notice that he's closing the distance and adjust accordingly. The bottom line is that when driving, you HAVE to watch the car in front of you. If they stop at an unexpected location for whatever reason - they can't see the traffic light, their tire blew out, their engine started smoking, a kid walked in front of their car, etc, etc. The possible reasons are endless. The drive behind them has a complete responsibility to stop as well. If they fail to stop because they didn't notice, then they're guilty of incompetence. If they fail to stop because they don't have time, then they're guilty of not maintaining sufficient separation.

  • by hack slash (1064002) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:49AM (#26748353)
    So long as individuals & companies that design the camera systems get a percentage of the fines there will always be an incentive for them to rig the system by fair means or foul.

    Ah well, nothing new in the world of business & politics then.
  • by Wax_and_Wane (558470) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:50AM (#26748637)
    I find it upsetting that we allow a computerized monitoring system to babysit our behavior anyway. As for the fact that it is surely being rigged in multiple places - that is just a sign that authorities have been given too much power over us in the first place. I believe in traffic safety, but I also believe in the freedom of not being monitored constantly.

    I think that we should still be asking the question of whether these cameras should be allowed in the first place. By commenting whether the state, local or federal government should be allowed to get away with yellow light shortening tactics like this we're answering a loaded question that reinforces our acceptance that these cameras should be there at all.
  • Re:News Flash! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:59AM (#26748683)

    The problem is that there are red light cameras at all. This is so ridiculously common that you would think people would grasp the problems governments have with corruption. But they'll point to the bad apples and blame them rather than blaming the system which made this so easy in the first place.

    We already know people are corrupt. (Hence GP's comment that water is wet.) We can't fix the corruption so we have to limit its effectiveness.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday February 06, 2009 @02:26AM (#26748799)
    "And hence they slam on the brakes when it isn't in fact safe to do so, and the guy behind rear ends them."

    that's the fault of the guy behind them tail gating. i hate this idea that running up a persons arse is their fault - keep your braking distance while driving and you can stop to avoid anything.

  • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orzetto (545509) on Friday February 06, 2009 @03:26AM (#26749057)

    We are talking about Italy, where the more corrupt you are, the more likely you are to end up in the national government. As an Italian, however, I am positive that no politician will be held accountable for this: our legal system effectively prevents corruption from being prosecuted.

    How is that? Well, corruption is still a crime, and politicians have not yet managed to make investigations discretionary—any report on illegal activities still must be investigated, no matter the opinion of the prosecutors; this is a good thing because the politicians cannot tell prosecutors what to do. However, at the same time, Italy is unique in that we have a system with three degrees of appeal that are almost always granted, and statutory terms that continue running during the trial.

    So, what do criminal politicians do? They remove all the funding they can from the judiciary. Italy's judiciary system is in a condition in which they actually lack paper and toner for printers, not to mention judiciary police being short on petrol. Add in a lot of legislation designed to slow down trials on crimes likely to be committed by politicians, note that complete trials may take a decade while statutory terms are much shorter, and and you can be sure that no person with enough money in their pockets to pay for lawyers will ever land in jail, unless they did something particularly heavy and/or lost support among their caste.

    Our prime minister has used this trick a few times already, some of which after having changed the law in order to shorten statutory terms.

  • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday February 06, 2009 @04:11AM (#26749243)

    It would also be nice if minimum yellow time could be put into federal law.

    More laws won't work. There is already a Federal law on the books which says that the anticipated revenue from moving/parking violations can not be included as part of a local government's standard operating budget. And do you think that this law is being followed, hell no! This revenue stream is now an integral part of those budgets, in fact they'll even increase the ticket amounts whenever there is a budget shortfall.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06, 2009 @04:16AM (#26749265)

    and i hate the idea that running up a persons ass is ALWAYS your fault no matter what. you cant just slam on the brakes in the middle of flowing traffic.

    keeping a safety distance that would allow ANYONE to stop at ANY moment without someone crashing into their rear end simply ISNT PRACTICAL. it would only fit half as many cars on the streets.

    also, in practice, if you tried to keep your distance, someone would merge into the safety distance, rendering the endeavor void.

  • by icebrain (944107) on Friday February 06, 2009 @07:46AM (#26750175)

    There is already a Federal law on the books which says that the anticipated revenue from moving/parking violations can not be included as part of a local government's standard operating budget. And do you think that this law is being followed, hell no! This revenue stream is now an integral part of those budgets, in fact they'll even increase the ticket amounts whenever there is a budget shortfall.

    Yep. Many smaller towns down here use traffic fines to make up 30% or more of the budget. The next town over from where I grew up, in fact, was running out of money... they held a town hall meeting where they decided to lower every speed limit to get some revenue back.

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