Chicago's minority drivers more likely to get red light, speed camera tickets: study

Chicago (WLS) -- A study has found that red light and speed cameras in Chicago are more likely to fine minority drivers.

There are hundreds of these cameras, placed proportionately in all city neighborhoods. A recent study by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers found that speed cameras reduced fatal and serious crashes by 15% but also that camera violations were more likely in Black and brown communities.

"More particularly Black drivers are getting speed tickets. And the question then became why," said Stacey Sutton, associate professor of UIC's Department of Urban Planning and Policy. "Roadway density is different. Population density, there are fewer businesses for people yet so there may be a good propensity to speed in those areas. And that we're seeing that would explain some of it."

The story is similar for red light cameras.

"Thirteen percent of all cameras within 350 feet of the freeway," Sutton said, adding that many cameras near freeways ticket more.

They are also more likely to ticket minorities because, she said, "Twenty-one percent are in majority-Black neighborhoods."

"We are right now waiting for a second hearing and there will be sometime in February," Francisco Ruiz said.

Ruiz is an associate professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology and is fighting a speed camera ticket issued on the South Side. He is using his expertise to argue that another car passing him at the time, could have been the violator.

"I think the calibration issue could be because, in my particular case, there were two cars crossing at the same time. My car being the further one from the radar gun," said Ruiz.

In November the I-Team found that same camera located in the Washington Park neighborhood, on the 500 block of East Morgan Drive, issued the most tickets in the city last year.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office said reforms are being implemented, allowing those ticketed who face hardship to get a break on extra fines and fees. One change would allow some who qualify to pay based on an amount proportionate to their income.

In the City of Chicago: Clear Path Relief Pilot Program, qualifying city residents whose income falls below 300% of the Federal Poverty Line will be able to participate in several options, including allowing them to pay a ticket amount that is proportionate to their income.
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