Life in the Fast Lane: Get on camera, pay $100

March 26, 2009 7:09:43 PM PDT
Cameras may soon be catching drivers who speed on some roads in the Chicago area.Proposed legislation in the Illinois General Assembly would give eight counties the option of installing camera radar devices on roads with high accident rates.

Illinois State Police have used cameras in the recent past to catch speeders in highway construction zones, but the proposal would allow permanent cameras to monitor speeding.

It would apply in eight counties where 80 percent of the state's population lives.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 1852 says the motivation is to save lives. But critics, among them many legislators, believe this is government using big brother to rake in money.

If there were a speed camera on a certain stretch of Irving Park Road, many drivers might get a ticket. There is no camera here now, but there could one day be under a proposal pushed by State Senator Terry Link.

"Any time we can save lives, one life or thousands of lives, I think that is what are responsibility and our job is to do down here," said Sen. Link.

Link's bill would allow the permanent placement of cameras to catch speeders in high traffic areas - in Cook County, the surrounding collar counties, and two counties in the East St Louis area.

Violators would get a $100 ticket with verifying picture mailed to them. It would not count as a moving violation.

"The bottom line is that there were 500 some people were killed in speed related accidents, I should say crashes. We want to reduce that as much as possible and the cameras will serve a very positive purpose in that regard," said Dave Druker, spokesman.

Highway safety advocates frequently refer to speed cameras that were installed on the 101 freeway around Phoenix. After they went up, accidents, and fatalities dropped noticeably. But many argue that the true motivator here is money.

"I believe it's a way that the city is just going to bring in more revenue and I don't agree with it," said Cindy Allande, motorist.

"We're not going to play a game of gotcha. We've got enough of that already and this is not something that should be used for a revenue stream for this city or the state or any municipality," said Ald. Tom Allen, 38th Ward.

Allen's ward already has red light cameras. Proponents say they've lessoned accidents, and they've also brought the city revenue. But Allen for one says he could support speed cameras only if the public demanded them in areas of definable risk.

Former Governor Blagojevich's attempt last year to put speed cameras on tollways didn't get to first base and Link's proposal only narrowly got out of committee.

"Both sides make a valid point if you think about it. It could save lives, but on the other hand there goes that cha-ching," said Kim Cain, motorist.

The bill would allow speed cameras to be placed cities, towns, villages in those eight counties. It doesn't apply to tollways as the bill is presently written.

It made it out of committee on a five-four vote, and is set to go to the full Senate next week.