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Pritzker wants “robust debate” about future of red-light cams

Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Pritzker was asked yesterday whether former Sen. Martin Sandoval’s indictment meant it was time to reconsider allowing local governments to install red-light cameras. The governor’s response

First of all, this kind of behavior, this kind of activity is utterly repellent. The people who are committing these crimes, people who get elected to public office and then serve their own pockets and not the interests of the people that they are supposed to be representing, those people need to get out of public office. We’re going to root them out. That is the job not only of our [applause] It’s not only a job for the federal government, it’s a job for the government of the state of Illinois. We need to pass new ethics legislation. We need to go after these people. We need to scare off the people that think that they should hold public office to make a buck for themselves.

Now, as to the question of red light cameras, I will just say this that I think there should be a robust debate about this question. There are some people in law enforcement who will say that red light cameras can save lives, that they reduce traffic fatalities. There are others who see them only as a way of bilking people who are driving their cars and may make a mistake along the way. So I am open to the question.

But most of all, we what we need to make sure is that no matter what policy we adopt, that the people who are implementing those policies, voting on them, are people who are of good repute, people who are standing up for the people of Illinois, who are following the law and following the ethical considerations that every elected official should have.

* He was then asked again about banning the cams

Again, I think that the legislature needs to consider whether or not these continue to be effective and listen to law enforcement as well as, you know, people from around the state.

But it’s clear that really almost anything can be corrupted by somebody who wants to be corrupt. So it’s also a question about, you know, who is it that’s implementing these laws.

I went over some possible common-sense reforms with subscribers today.

* 2014 Tribune story

Chicago’s red light cameras fail to deliver the dramatic safety benefits long claimed by City Hall, according to a first-ever scientific study that found the nation’s largest camera program is responsible for increasing some types of injury crashes while decreasing others.

The state-of-the-art study commissioned by the Tribune concluded the cameras do not reduce injury-related crashes overall — undercutting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s primary defense of a program beset by mismanagement, malfunction and a $2 million bribery scandal.

Emanuel has credited the cameras for a 47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or “T-bone,” crashes. But the Tribune study, which accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent.

At the same time, the study calculated a corresponding 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries, illustrating a trade-off between the cameras’ costs and benefits.

Your own thoughts?


  1. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:07 am:

    The cameras don’t do what they are supposed to.

    Everybody hates them.

    They are an albatross around lawmakers’ necks.

    Get rid of them if you have any common sense.

  2. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:08 am:

    “Just 15%” .. a reduction of 15% in the most dangerous crashes is significant and hard to achieve in other ways. The problem is not the technology, it is abuses by municipalities and red light companies. The technology needs to be implemented and regulated like other traffic control safety devices, and taken out of the realm of municipal financing.

  3. - qualified someone nobody sent - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:12 am:

    When will a politician just admit “….we need the income.”

  4. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    IF the red light cameras are truly about safety, tickets issued will be run through the court system, convictions reported to SoS & insurance companies. IF they aren’t run through the court system, and aren’t reported to SoS & insurance companies, then it is all about $.

  5. - Oak Parker - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:17 am:

    Local government officials, when getting pitched things like red light cams, always translate the revenue figure into government jobs. If you tell them it will raise $1 million a year for their village, they hear it as “I can hire 10 people” off of this money.

  6. - Change Agent - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:18 am:

    It’s incredibly important to consider injury severity here. 15% reduction in the deadliest kind of crash vs. 22% increase in the type of crash that more typically results in whiplash injuries seems like a good trade off to me. Implement anti-corruption measures, keep the overall policy.

  7. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:23 am:

    People need to realize that if these cameras go away, then either the revenue generated from these cameras will have to come from another source or programs/projects funded with this revenue will have to be eliminated.

  8. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    -Anyone Remember- tickets can’t be given to drivers because the identity of the person driving is unknown. The $100 / ticket is enough pain to make be careful to stop before you turn right on red. Ask my kids! :)

  9. - cover - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    “22 percent increase in rear-end crashes”

    Of course! But maybe it’s actually a good thing to encourage people not to blow through yellow lights.

    While I understand the strong potential for corruption with these red light cameras, there are times I wish they had been implemented in Springfield - the city could make serious, legitimate cash from the prevalence of red light runners here.

  10. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:33 am:

    NoGifts -
    ISP Construction Speed Zone camera cases are run through the court system. If ISP can do it, the locals can do it - either by getting better cameras / using better camera placement. Read the statute - as long as the fines are paid, they don’t get reported. A $300 million lottery winner could run red lights rather than wait all the live long day, and as long as the fines are paid, SoS & the insurance companies would be none the wiser.

  11. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    -Anyone Remember- ISP doesn’t use automated speed enforcement. They are manned vehicles. And they have to be able to identify the driver.

  12. - Alfred - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:48 am:

    The cameras are a revenue source not a safety precaution; that is clear as day. With that being said, get rid of them. It disproportionately affects low income individuals b/c those are the ones financially impacted by the 100 buck ticket

  13. - Paddyrollingstone - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:50 am:

    I know that the cameras changed my own personal behavior after I received 2 of the red light tickets (deservedly for going thru the red light).

    I also believe that the rear end crash increase is due to the fact that not every intersection has a red light camera. If every intersection had a red light camera and drivers knew this, then the incidents of rear ending would most certainly go down.

  14. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:53 am:

    Regulate the time so the yellow lights last long enough. Otherwise, I’m ok with it - it’s an optional tax.

  15. - redlight greenlight - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 11:55 am:

    We have to divorce the enforcement function from the revenue function. Sandoval was’t holding his palm out for safety stickers. Speed cams and red light cams for safety are a good thing. But that’s not how these are un in Chicago and the rest of the state.

  16. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:02 pm:

    Oddly enough, there’s a rumor on my NextDoor feed that says there are new cameras at Irving Park and Western taking pictures of drivers to make sure they’re not using their phones.

  17. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:04 pm:

    It’s all been a scam from day one.

    None of the RLC camera sites were selected using the process established by the Federal Highway Administration. This process establishes how to select candidate sites and to be sure that RLC cameras are the correct method of addressing the Red light running problem.

    The vast amount of revenue generated by RLC cameras is from the right turn on red traffic flow. These traffic violations are not the violation RLC cameras claim to reduce. The operators use a set of murky criteria to assess whether the offending vehicle stopped for a sufficiently long period of time before the turn. Additionally, ticketing in some cases takes place when the vehicle does not stop at the stop bar. Unfortunately in many cases the driver can not determine whether it is safe to proceed from that location and then has to move forward. This provides more opportunities for gotcha ticketing.

    If we are to use RLCs for safety purposes we can do a few things.

    Require adherence to the FHWA process for site selection and make sure other remedies are applied before RLCs are installed.
    Change the right turn on red criteria to a standard aligned to the idea that an officer witnessing the infraction would actually stop the car and issue a ticket.
    Finally, remove the administrative cloak from the process and report the issued tickets to the insurance companies and the Secretary of State.

    The highly reduced number of electronic tickets issued will likely change RLCs from a revenue generator to a cost to local governments. If the governments are honest and believe that safety is increased by the use of RLCs, they should bear the costs. Want to bet whether they would continue to use the cameras?

  18. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:07 pm:

    I live and drive in Chicago regularly and I have never received a red light ticket. I assume it is because instead of speeding up when it is yellow I instead slow down, which is the point.

  19. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:10 pm:

    And how do you feel about the Red Light Camera “hearing officers” being paid from the proceeds of the tickets so generated? Judges in the court system are not paid from traffic fines.

  20. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:15 pm:

    Wasn’t there a controversy about shortening the cycle times on these red lights so they weren’t the same as regular red lights?

    The only way to eliminate corruption and predatory practices is to ban the cameras entirely.

  21. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    There are standards for installing them. IDOT spokesman says there has to be an average of three red light-running crashes per year

  22. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:33 pm:

    For highway operators, it’s for safety. For municipalities, it’s for revenue. Both statements can be true at the same time.

  23. - A Jack - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:41 pm:

    I tend to avoid municipalities that choose to have red light cameras. I have never had a ticket from one, but they certainly make me nervous. And a nervous driver may overreact causing such a thing as a rear end collision.

    However, since I avoid municipalities that have the cameras, those businesses in those areas lose out on my business. And shouldn’t municipalities be trying to foster business instead of stifling it with revenue gimmicks?

  24. - anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 1:07 pm:

    - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 12:04 pm:

    Well said.

  25. - Jocko - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 1:10 pm:

    As someone who has been ‘caught’ going right on red twice (once with no traffic in ALL directions), I see them as the shakedown they were always intended to be.

  26. - BigDoggie - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 1:33 pm:

    If they were truly about safety, wouldn’t they have been set up to only ticket violations that contribute to safety-related accidents? (i.e. not to people who come to 95% of a stop when turning right on a red light and there’s zero oncoming traffic)

  27. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 1:55 pm:

    Sandoval and his crew of corrupt pols are reason enough for elimination of Red light cameras.

  28. - Benniefly2 - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 2:15 pm:

    Disallow using the cameras to issue tickets for the right turn on red violations and I would be perfectly fine in allowing municipalities to us them for their stated purpose, which is increasing overall traffic safety by reducing the number of people who blow straight through red lights.

  29. - Merica - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 2:33 pm:

    it was a scam from day 1. Not sure what’s left to debate. letting it continue is only opening the state and local governments up to litigation at the taxpayers expense.

    Arguing RLC’s are “about safety” is like Kenneth Starr and Alan Dershowitz arguing Trump’s “errand” in the Ukraine was about “fighting corruption”.

  30. - DuPage - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 5:51 pm:

    Change the law so all revenue that now goes to municipalities goes to the state pension systems.
    Not one penny to the municipalities. Then we will see if their motive is traffic safety or not.

  31. - Keith - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 6:01 pm:

    Meh - I’ve received 2 red light camera tickets in Chicago (both for right on red, at intersections with insufficient *read: absent* signage) since 2009 and flat out refused to and will NOT pay either of them. It’s a scam, plain and simple; get rid of them.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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