Fmr. mayor fights traffic light ticket

MULLICA HILL, N.J. - October 27, 2010

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Mike Koestler of Mullica Hill, like most every other driver everywhere, found himself stuck in traffic.

"I was sitting at the light, I was about the fifth car back in line, and when the light turned green, we proceeded into the intersection," Koestler said.

Only that green light, at the intersection of Delsea Drive and William Dalton Drive in Glassboro, NJ , didn't last. And that's when he had to make the decision.

"How fast was I going? How close was I to the intersection? I figured it just turned yellow, I can make it through," Koestler said.

He figured wrong. The yellow light turned red. Koestler was caught. The flash of the red light camera in his rearview mirror came first, days later a ticket for $85.

But Koestler knew something wasn't right, that yellow light, he thought, just didn't seem long enough.

"So I circled back around with my stopwatch and timed it out, and timed it at 2.8 seconds," Koestler said.

Problem is, federal guidelines require yellow lights on state roads to last at least 4 seconds in 35 mile per hour zones (like this one in question) and longer where the speed limit is faster.

This means Koestler caught the system red handed; he was cheated and says countless others may have been too.

"When I got the first ticket and the second one right after that and then the third one soon after that I figured something was wrong," Koestler said.

Another man, who asked not to be identified, says he's been nabbed to the tune of $250 for the same thing.

In a letter, NJDOT acknowledged the light was, inadvertently, improperly set, and said they would fix the problem. But they haven't yet responded to our request as to how many other lights might be impacted and how many other drivers may have been ticketed on a technical error.

Though there's no indication the problem is widespread, Mike Koestler says it's about more than money.

"There are safety issues when a yellow light is too quick because people aren't expecting it and all of a sudden they're slamming on their brakes trying not to run the intersection," Koestler said.

The former mayor is glad he decided to fight City Hall. Now, he's just hoping lady justice isn't also color blind.

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