Seeing red, ticketed drivers sue NYC over brief yellow lights

Several drivers are taking their tickets to court, claiming New York City's yellow traffic signals last less than three seconds, the minimum time permitted under federal guidelines.

NEW YORK — Three drivers nabbed by New York City cameras monitoring traffic violations have filed suit, challenging their tickets and claiming the city's yellow traffic signals are rigged to turn red too quickly.

The putative class action, filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, asserts the yellow lights lasted less than three seconds, the minimum time permitted under federal guidelines.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status for the "thousands, if not hundreds of thousands" of drivers who have received citations after being caught on camera running red lights. The city has collected $235 million from more than 300 red light cameras since 2007, the lawsuit says.

The American Automobile Association and the New York Post recently examined four random intersections and found the yellow lights lasted less than three seconds, according to the lawsuit.

The city checked those traffic signals and found the lights had "appropriate yellow signal timing," said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Transportation. Two of the intersections do not have cameras, he said.

Moreover, he said, the city only has 150 traffic cameras, which is less than half the number the lawsuit claims.

"While attorneys haven't had time to fully review the suit, it appears to be based on the same untrue allegations that were investigated and debunked months ago," Solomonow said.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for the traffic tickets issued using the camera system, plus an order that the city shut down the cameras until the yellow traffic signals last at least three seconds.