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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device (Yellow Light)

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: Wisconsin

    The time was 2:37 am. I drove past a yellow light that turned red while I was inside the intersection.
    I got pulled over by the officer who saw it and he came to my windows and said that I ran past a amber light, I gave him my drivers licence and he returned and explain to me that he has issued me a citation for this incidence, and gave a very subtle hint that he gave me the ticket because there was no notion of "stopping/slowing down".

    Quick edit***
    The citation is of ordinance 82-1 with the description on the citation "VIOLATE RED TRAFFIC SIGNAL"
    I ran past yellow......? The cop even said I ran past amber light when he came to my window Could this be dismissed somehow cause its accusing me of the wrong thing, or could red light and yellow light law be merged?

    So here is the story of why I ran the yellow light.
    The particular this happened on was as previously mentioned under construction and the road was literally FILLED with rubble that made the road unstable, normally this roads speed limits is 35 mph, but for some reason even in these conditions they had not lowered the speed limit to something more reasonable as 25 mph. I was driving about 35 mph like I do every morning on that road around 2:30-2:40 am. As every other night there is no car in sight anywhere, which of course made me more careless with my driving. A hair of my eye lids got caught in my eye and i put my finger in my eye to remove it and had my eyes closed for about 2 seconds approaching the intersection.
    However I had gone far enough to make it hazardous for my vehicle to make a quick stop hence the high amount of rubble on the street, my car could easily lose grip and spin out of control. When I opened my eyes and saw a yellow light I was not sure how long it had been yellow but I was sure it couldn't have been long, so I proceeded to drive through the intersection, shortly after I had entered the intersection the light turned red.

    I'm wondering how I can fight this.
    Should I plead guilty and explain how it happened?
    I got a court date of 28 JUL to plead.
    The citation is 180 dollars and 3 points.
    Should I get a lawyer?
    Should I get the points reduced by going to traffic school instead?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device ( Yellow Light)

    According to this:

    Section 346.37 (on page 11) says:

    (b) Yellow. When shown with or following the green, traffic facing a yellow signal shall stop before entering the intersection unless so close to it that a stop may not be made in safety.

    So, if you were already in the intersection when it was yellow, it's legal unless you could have stopped, per state law. Ordinance 82-1, is that a local law? Any way you can find out what that says exactly? Assuming it's similar to the state law, read on.

    One thing you might do is go back and time the signal with an accurate stopwatch. Signal timings are often set to legal minimums, which on a 35 mph approach is 3.6 seconds. The engineering guidelines are based on a 1 second reaction time and a 10 fps/second deceleration rate. It takes 5.1 seconds to stop (going from 51.3 feet per second to zero), covering 131 feet in the process. Add 1 second of reaction time (0.85 is the average) and you're back at 182 feet to react and stop. If you coast through, you can be as far back as 184 feet and barely make the light in 3.6 seconds. You can see that the tolerance is tight. If your light is shorter or longer it won't change the 182 foot number but would change the coast-through number. Finally, under hard braking, a car might stop at 15 fps/sec, which takes 88 feet and 3.4 seconds. Including 1 second of reaction time, it's possible to stop from as close as 139 feet. 15 fps/sec is short of a "panic stop" but it's abrupt, and may not be "safe" if you're not 100% sure nothing's too close behind you. With that information, you can try to determine if it was possible for you to stop safely.

    None of this helps you if the officer claims you entered on the red. But if the officer is going to testify that you entered on the yellow, it will come down to the "stop safely" argument. You may be able to find out what he's going to say by filing for discovery of his notes. That's after pleading not guilty on July 28. The problem is, your own testimony is all you'll have that you couldn't stop safely, and your story that you couldn't stop safely because you were distracted while driving too fast for road conditions IMHO doesn't help. If you just make a yellow light that's set to the legal minimum, and you're going the speed limit with nothing behind you, the math shows that you could have stopped safely. If the yellow light is too short, like 3 seconds, you could argue (without testifying yourself) that the light is not set to MUTCD standards. The 2009 MUTCD is available on-line from a government web site. It's long, but it shows the minimum recommended timings for yellow lights, and the table shows 3.6 seconds for a 35mph approach with a level grade and no other visibility issues.

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