“According to the National Motorists Association (NMA), some municipalities have been caught shortening the time in which yellow lights are on in order to generate additional revenue from tickets issued to motorists caught on traffic cameras running red lights.”

From the Department of You Have To Be Kidding, this article reports:

The yellow traffic light is taking on a new meaning for motorists during these tough economic times: one expensive trap.

According to the National Motorists Association (NMA), some municipalities have been caught shortening the time in which yellow lights are on in order to generate additional revenue from tickets issued to motorists caught on traffic cameras running red lights. At least six cities including Dallas and Chattanooga, Tenn. have engaged in the practice in recent years, the organization’s Web site says.

Traffic cameras are seen as cash cows by their backers. Big cities reap millions in revenue from the cameras, which cost about $100,000 to install. Los Angeles issues about 3,600 red-light violations a month through its camera systems and netted more than $6 million last year from the program after expenses, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Shorten the time in which drivers have to stop and that revenue-stream can be even more lucrative. For the NMA, a libertarian group opposed to many traffic safety rules, shorter yellow lights is one way state and local governments can justify the expensive traffic camera systems, says the group’s President Jim Baxter.

Other groups, including the larger American Automobile Association, say the NMA is exaggerating the extent of the problem in order to whip up public hysteria. “AAA does not believe the problem is widespread,” says Justin McNaull, the organization’s director of state relations. He says the problems disclosed by the NMA were in isolated programs run by vendors motivated by profit.

Baxter, though, is undaunted. “They play games with the yellow light timing,” he says, adding that manipulating yellow lights does little to promote traffic safety