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All yellow traffic lights are not created equal, it seems. Especially in Chicago.

With little notice at the time, this spring the city shortened the duration of its yellow lights by a fraction of a second. The change was slight: the yellow lights lasted 2.9 seconds before turning red instead of the previous city-required minimum of three seconds. But the effect for the cash-starved city was real: nearly $8 million from an additional 77,000 tickets, according to the city’s inspector general.

All of those $100 tickets were issued after cameras installed at intersections caught the drivers as they passed through. These systems, known as red light cameras, are an increasingly controversial tactic for policing roadways. Established in the name of public safety, critics contend the cameras have become little more than a way for municipalities to funnel money into their coffers.

“If the machine is set to catch more…

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