The saving grace for getting a $100 ticket from a red-light camera is the belief that the expensive fine could reduce crashes and even save lives.
But that’s not always what happens, a Daily Herald analysis of 55 intersections across 29 suburbs shows. Instead of declining, crashes — and especially more serious collisions — increased or stayed the same at some intersections after cameras were installed.
For example, crashes involving injuries went up or stayed the same at nearly half the intersections where that data was reported.
And crashes considered hazardous by transportation experts remained constant or increased at one-quarter of intersections where that data was reported.
* And then there’s this little twist…
Red-light cameras began proliferating at suburban intersections in 2009 with the justification that they would prevent crashes.
The same year, the Illinois Department of Transportation raised the dollar threshold necessary to report property damage crashes from $500 to $1,500.
In one fell swoop, reported crashes shrank statewide by 30 percent — from an average of 413,235 a year to an average of 287,718, IDOT officials said. […]
At first glance, the data shows crashes decreased at 85.5 percent of suburban intersections after red-light cameras were installed.
But a closer look at cameras installed after 2009 at 14 suburban intersections shows their success rate is much lower. In the majority of cases, crashes dropped before the cameras were put up, coinciding with the 2009 IDOT change, and then rose after the cameras were installed.
You can’t help but wonder whether the red light cam bill and the IDOT recalibration were connected. So far, the Daily Herald hasn’t connected those dots. We’ll see.