The duration of the yellow or amber light is critical for whether you receive a red light ticket. Most motorists enter an intersection when the light is yellow and on the verge of turning red. The quicker the yellow light, the more likely that the motorist will end up falling short and running a red light.
In New York City, the Administrative Code requires that a traffic control device remain in the yellow phase for 2-3 seconds. This is a relatively short duration.
In contrast, the duration of a yellow light duration in California varies based on the speed limit but can be 4.2 seconds, and Texas requires a 4.7-second interval for the amber phase on roads with speeds of 50 mph and higher.
However, in New York, yellow lights are often set to last only about 3 seconds. With the proliferation of red light cameras, a “quick” yellow leads to many more tickets being issued.
One diligent motorist was able to get a red light camera ticket thrown out recently in Glassboro, New Jersey. The motorist timed the duration of the yellow light duration and found it to be only 3 seconds, despite New Jersey law requiring it to be 4 seconds. This led to 12,000 other red ligth camera tickets issued at this intersection being thrown out too.
My best advice is that, if you see yellow and you are not already in the intersection, hit your brakes. In my opinion, disobeying a red light is one of the motorist dangerous moving violations on the books. Cross traffic relies on the green light as a sign that the “coast is clear” and some very bad T-bone accidents occur when someone runs a red light.