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Drivers file lawsuit over NYC red-light cameras

Karen Matthews, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Three drivers who were caught by New York City's red-light cameras filed a lawsuit Wednesday blaming too-short yellow lights for their tickets.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan state Supreme Court charges that the yellow lights lasted less than the three seconds mandated by federal guidelines, an accusation the city denied.

"It seems like it's a bit of a sham the way the lights are calibrated," plaintiff Brian Hughes, of Cherry Hill, N.J., said in a telephone interview.

Hughes said he was snapped by one of the cameras in Manhattan in October 2010 as he was driving from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

"It was a yellow light when I went through," he said. "I suppose it changed to red at some point when I was in the intersection and the camera caught me."

The complaint says the city operates 318 red-light cameras and the program has generated $235 million in revenue since 2007 — $47.2 million in 2011 alone.

The suit cites a study by AAA that found four red-light camera intersections where the yellow lights lasted 2.53 to 2.84 seconds.

City Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow said the lights are all properly timed. The signals provide a minimum of three seconds of yellow light, and red-light cameras take pictures 0.3 seconds after the light has turned red, he said.

The lawsuit filed by Hughes and fellow motorists Charles Luceno and Richard Marks seeks refunds of all improperly collected tickets.

It also seeks a halt to the red-light camera program "until the program complies with New York state and federal laws, rules and regulations with respect to the minimum duration of yellow light traffic signals."