Ill. lawmakers reconsider red-light cameras

February 16, 2010 8:51:45 PM PST
The future of red-light cameras in Illinois is up for debate in Springfield.The controversy: are they merely government moneymakers or do they save lives?

Chicago started installing red-light cameras seven years ago and in recent years more suburbs have added them.

Camera advocates and opponents both tout accident statistics to make their point for either more cameras or no cameras.

The Senate transportation committee will try to sort it out.

There is a growing movement among opponents of red-light cameras statewide. Transportation committee chairman Martin Sandoval says those people will be heard along with those who support the cameras. His committee heard one proposal to ban the cameras Tuesday. Now he is vowing to hear from all sides in the next couple of weeks.

The city of Chicago, according to some critics, leads the country in the number of red-light cameras with more than 140 locations. City officials insist they make those intersections safer. But critics say it's just the opposite. They say accidents actually increase because of the cameras.

"It's totally a revenue generator. There is nothing about the red-light cameras that increases safety," said Peter Breen, BanRedCams.com.

Breen started a Website called banredcams.com which includes video of an intersection where he says 95 percent of the tickets are for making seemingly legal right turns on red. His Facebook page has more than 1,600 followers.

Forrest Jehlik has gotten two red-light camera tickets at $100 each. But says he had little choice.

"You have to make a split decision. Am I going to slam my brakes on and run the risk of being hit or just run through the light and take a chance of getting a ticket," said Jehlik.

Chicago's Active Transportation Alliance, however, supports the cameras saying they do increase safety.

"There is a small boost to rear-end crashes initially and then it levels off. But in those head-on crashes...it reduces and that's the important thing here," said Rob Sadowsky, Active Transportation Alliance.

Over the weekend red-light camera opponents gathered at a North Side red-light intersection carrying signs and handing out leaflets.

The Illinois Senate transportation committee is taking up the issue. Senator Dan Duffy has proposed banning the cameras except in railroad and construction zones.

"These red-light cameras are all about revenue and not about safety and studies have shown that accidents actually increase in intersections with these cameras, they don't decrease," said Duffy.

The village of Schaumburg used the cameras for several months before taking them down. They brought in $1 million in fines but almost as many complaints.

"We depend upon folks coming to Schaumburg, and staying in Schaumburg and coming back to Schaumburg, not telling neighbors or friends or co-workers about the $100 ticket they got in the mail," said Al Larson, Schaumburg Village President.

The Schaumburg village president says of the $1 million the city collected, the red-light camera company got a third of it.

Among the other proposals state lawmakers will hear is one that would eliminate tickets for turning right on red.


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