Alderman proposes countdown at traffic lights

February 19, 2009 4:34:42 PM PST
Chicago drivers could get a countdown for red lights if one Chicago alderman gets his way.The alderman says it might prevent drivers from slamming on the brakes when lights change at intersections with traffic cameras. But critics say it might cause accidents rather than prevent them.

Alderman Anthony Beal says the reason he is proposing countdown signals at red light camera intersections is because of the high incident of accidents that are occurring when motorist slam on their breaks and are rear ended in order to avoid getting a citation.

"It will give the driver a little more time to slow down or if I can make it through the intersection. This is a public safety issue. People are being rear ended and what is going to cost them to repair that car and pay for a ticket," said Alderman Anthony Beal, 9th ward.

"I think it is would be a good idea to have a countdown device so that nobody would run into somebody else," said Leslie King, motorist.

"They should. The light turns so quick, you are already at the intersection and the camera is taking your picture and that is not fair to us," said Mary Ash, motorist.

Some traffic experts believe countdown signals at red light camera intersections for motorist could create more accidents.

"When people see there are a few seconds left they tend to slam to get through the intersection . That creates a new problem and you are fostering bad motor behavior," said Joe Schwieterman, DePaul University transportation professor.

The Chicago Department of Transportation says about 230 of the city's 2,900 intersections have pedestrian countdown signals. They cost between $12,000 and $15,000 to install.

"Pedestrian countdown signals are intended to provide information to pedestrians not motorists. The presence of a red light camera is not a criteria for installation. Motorists should never use a pedestrian countdown signal to make a driving decision," said CDOT in a statement.

"I think this is a low priority. We have serious transportation problems with a hemorrhaging budget problem to create a new focus with limited pay off. I do not think the timing is right," said Schwieterman.