Tribune Exposes Suburban Red Light Camera Scam
It’s just about improving safety.
That’s the mantra cities, towns, and villages and municipalities around the state of Illinois repeat over and over again as the pretense for installing red light cameras in their municipalities.
But according to a fantastic piece of investigative journalism by the Chicago Tribune, many suburban towns are seemingly employing red light cameras for the revenue only, with only a wink and a nod toward the safety aspect of that equation.
This revenue over “safety” concept is not really breaking news to any motorist who has been burned by a red light camera with with an expensive, usually $100, ticket.
Tribune reportersdig much deeper into the facts and numbers behind red light cameras in Illinois, than anyone previously. And the data they uncover shows, in many cases, some towns are choosing intersections more for the amount of revenue they can produce, than for the number of crashes, injuries and deaths the red light cameras were originally intended to prevent.
A Federal Highway Administration study from 2006 of red light cameras, states these devices are “most beneficial at intersections where there are relatively few rear-end crashes and many right-angle ones.”
The Tribune story points out that many suburban red light cameras are installed to catch motorists making illegal right on red turns, while not installing cameras at intersections to deter motorists from more dangerous red light running behavior.
While, of course, motorists who do not come to a complete stop before proceeding right on red, are in the wrong, very few accidents occur in when a motorist blows through a red light. If an accident occurs, it’s usually minor compared to right angle (T-bone) collisions which take place when a driver blows straight through an intersection. It’s when drivers runs a red light through an intersection, that the potential for the worst and potentially deadly crashes occur.
The Tribune’s investigation found one devastatingly embarrassing and juicy piece of information in their story:
The Tribune looked at accident records for 88 red light intersections and they determined nearly all The Tribune reviewed accident records for 88 camera-approved locations and found nearly all had many more rear-end crashes than angle crashes. At some intersections targeted for cameras, few accidents of any kind had occurred.
So, when municipalities install red light cameras to snag right on red violations, it is obviously not about safety as it is money.
Perhaps the most blatant example in the article, is an intersection in Bellwood, where one red light camera generates $60-$70,000 per month, capturing mostly non-resident drivers rolling through a red light to enter the Eisenhower Expressway.
Bellwood’s moneymaking champ of a camera at 25th and Harrison churned out its first ticket in December 2006, just six months after a new state law was signed giving the green light to red-light cameras in the suburbs.
In his municipal league talk, McCampbell said he and other Bellwood officials lobbied for the new law. He said the driving force was the deaths of four people in a July 2005 crash that involved red light running at Mannheim Road and Madison Street.
Bellwood has eight traffic cameras, but none at that intersection.
The Trib article points out at least six suburban intersections where this corrupt model of revenue over safety is being employed, including East Dundee, Schiller Park, Lombard, Elk Grove Village, Palos Heights and Riverdale.
Columnist Dennis Byrne addresses this issue in a recent post at his blog The Barbershop and is generally supportive of red light cameras.
But, Byrne’s view seems naive when one digests the data the Tribune writers provide. These facts just objectify the gut feeling every motorist has held since the first red light camera was installed.
It’s about revenue…NOT safety.