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Red Light Camera Debate Heats Up in Chicago




Red Light Camera Debate Heats Up In Chicago, IL

The City of Chicago’s Red Light Camera Program has been controversial since it was launched in 2003 as a means of increasing safety and reducing traffic accidents on city streets. Today, it is the largest red light camera program in the country.

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), there are 302 cameras located throughout the city. You can see the CDOT list here or check out this map. In March, Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered 50 cameras to be taken down at 25 intersections, as WTTW reports.

Proponents say the cameras help to prevent serious intersection accidents. But opponents say they do nothing more than generate ticket revenue for the city.

Red Light Cameras Act As A Tremendous Deterrent

Attorney Jeffrey J. Kroll, a partner with Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., recently weighed in on the debate.

“Cameras act as a tremendous deterrent,” Kroll told Main Street. “People are more cautious. They are changing behavior.”

The controversy over red light cameras is widespread. Main Street points to debates that are taking place across the country, including in cities in New Jersey and North Carolina.

The Illinois House passed a bill, H.B. 0173, which would ban the cameras in municipalities that are not home rule. The bill is now being reviewed by a Senate committee.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, the bill would not apply to Chicago, but it would impact numerous suburbs, including Blue Island, Forest Park, Hickory Hills, Westchester, Villa Park, Libertyville and Fox River Grove.

How the Red Light Program Operates

The Chicago Tribune provides an easy-to-follow four-step breakdown of how the red light camera program works.

First, as the Tribune describes, a car passes over sensors that are located in the pavement at intersections. If the sensors detect the car going at a certain speed, it causes the camera to start operating.

Next, the city’s red light vendor checks the footage to see if the car driver ran the light and sends that information to a second vendor for review. If there was a suspected violation, the second vendor forwards the driver’s license plate number to law enforcement authorities. The city then mails a ticket to the driver.

After getting a ticket in the mail, a driver can go online to the City of Chicago website and view the video. The driver can then agree to pay the $100 ticket or appeal.

The appeal is reviewed by one of 80 lawyers who have been hired by the city to serve as administrative law judges, the Tribune explains.

Proponents Say Red Light Cameras Prevent Accidents; Opponents Fight Back

Accident caused by running a red lightAccording to the City of Chicago, the red light cameras have helped to reduce right-angle (T-bone or side-impact) crashes, which are most likely to result in serious injuries or fatalities. Those crashes have dropped by an average of more than 47 percent at intersections equipped with red light cameras, the City claims.

Additionally, the City claims that, from 2005 to 2012, at intersections with red light cameras:

All crashes fell by 33 percent
Crashes resulting in serious injuries decreased by 22 percent
Pedestrian crashes fell by 23 percent
Rear-end crashes went down by 7 percent.

Additionally, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted a study which found that red-light-running rates declined at intersections equipped with cameras.

A Federal Highway Administration study determined that cameras reduce angle-crashes but tend to cause an increase in rear-end collisions. The FHA suggested camera systems would still be of benefit at intersections where there are relatively few rear-end crashes and many right-angle ones.

In December 2014, the Chicago Tribune disputed the city’s safety claims, citing the results of a scientific study of the camera system that the newspaper commissioned.

According to the Tribune, the study showed that the cameras had reduced injury-causing side-impact crashes by just 15 percent. At the same time, the cameras had actually increased the incidence of injury-causing rear-end crashes by 22 percent.

Also, no safety benefit was found from placing the cameras at intersections where there had previously been few crashes resulting in injuries, the Tribune stated. Such accidents actually increased at those intersections after cameras went in, according to the newspaper.

Should Changes Be Made to the Chicago’s Red Light Program?

Clearly, as an August 2014 Tribune poll found, there is widespread support for changing how the red light camera program is run within Chicago.

According to WTTW, possible changes could include giving first-time offenders the option of paying the fine or taking online safety classes.

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we lean toward measures that promote safety. This is because we see the destruction caused by car accidents every day, including accidents involving pedestrians. It is careless and reckless driving involved in running red and yellow caution lights that ultimately needs to end.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a driver who ran a red light or engaged in other negligent conduct, contact us to receive a free review of your case.

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