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Yellow light claim in Greenville red light camera lawsuit put to expert

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GREENVILLE, Pitt County - The City of Greenville rolls out its red light camera program this Friday evening at five different intersections.

A lawsuit by Greenville resident William Kozel claims the yellow light intervals are too short and don't give drivers enough time to stop. We put that claim to the test.

Using a stopwatch, we found the yellow light interval here at the intersection of Arlington and Firettower was 4.3 seconds. Kozel's lawyer, Paul Stam, claimed in an interview last week the amount of time for drivers to react when seeing a yellow, to avoid running a red light, was too short.

"They misuse an equation that defies the laws of physics, that are in effect everywhere in the known universe unless you're traveling at the speed of light," Stam said last Friday.

Stam was referencing the N.C. Department of Transportation's equation to time yellow lights throughout the state. The equation comes from the Institute of Transportation Engineers. We reached out to an East Carolina University professor who showed us it is possible to stop within the NCDOT's interval.

"So you would need 4.4 seconds to come to a full stop," said Dr. Regina DeWitt, ECU Physics Associate Professor.

DeWitt said the distance from which you stop is very important. She even calculated which distance you'd have to stop to avoid getting caught.

"If you're about 243 feet from a stoplight, make sure you watch out," DeWitt said. "And slow down, be ready to stop if necessary."

As for Kozel's claims that the lights are too short. DeWitt said it wouldn't make sense for the NCDOT to make it any longer. She also said to keep in mind that if the light is longer, you'll still have to stop within a certain distance to avoid crossing the intersection line.

When DeWitt worked out the equations, she was using the posted speed limit, 45 miles per hour. She advised drivers stopping at the intersection also observe the speed limit to avoid getting caught by the cameras.

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