390,000 drivers set to receive refunds for red-light and speed camera tickets

390,000 drivers set to receive refunds for red-light and speed camera tickets

Nearly 4 in 10 of those eligible for refunds made a claim for an average refund check of $36.62.

The city of Chicago is set to issue refunds to nearly 390,000 motorists who were ticketed under the city’s red-light and speed camera programs, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The refunds are the result of a settlement agreement, which stemmed from a class-action lawsuit against the city for allegedly violating 1.2 million motorists’ due process rights.

Those 1.2 million motorists were eligible for a ticket refund as part of the settlement. The average refund amount is $36.62, according to the Sun-Times. Nearly 39 percent of the 1.2 million eligible motorists participated by sending in claims during a 60-day eligibility window that ended Dec. 11, 2017.

But the payouts won’t be for the full cost of the ticket. Eligible drivers will only get back 50 percent refunds.

The lawsuit argued the city had broken its own rules by failing to give second violation notices before issuing liability determinations, failing to specify makes of vehicles, and charging late fees 21 days after the determined liability, instead of the required 25-day period.

The city violated motorists’ due process rights by not sending second notice violations to those who were ticketed, and slapping drivers with $100 late fees four days before the deadline.

Between 2010 and 2015, the 1.2 million motorists eligible for payouts received 1.5 million red-light and speed-camera tickets, and as part of the settlement the city promised those 1.5 million tickets would not be factored into the city’s decision-making process in regard to “booted” vehicles and driver’s license suspensions.

The checks could hit mailboxes as soon as the summer of 2018, according to the Sun-Times. However, the deal still has to be approved by a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Under the agreement, more than 78,000 motorists who never paid their tickets will have part of their debt forgiven and qualify for more debt relief in the future. As part of an $82.3 million program, ticketed drivers who pay the remainder of their fine will have late fees and collection costs waived, according to the Sun-Times.

Ultimately, the settlement is peanuts compared with how much the city of Chicago has raked in from issuing red-light tickets over the years. From 2011 to 2015, the city took in more than $285 million in red-light camera revenues.

And the suburbs have taken notice, installing their own cameras and taking in generous revenues as a result. ABC 7 and the Sun-Times estimated the Chicago suburbs took in more than $170 million in red-light camera revenue from 2014 to 2016.

Where red-light cameras go, lawsuits are often not far behind. Three ticketed drivers and activist group Abolish Red-Light Cameras filed a class-action lawsuit against the village of Crestwood in October 2017. The plaintiffs are looking to wipe out 56,000 tickets based on red-light camera footage taken at an intersection the litigants say is unfair to motorists.

It’s also worth noting there’s little real evidence that red-light cameras actually reduce crashes. In fact, the preponderance of independent studies show that red-light cameras do not reduce the number of car crashes at controlled intersections, according to the National Motorists Association.

With or without lawsuits, red-light cameras remain a profitable way for Chicago and its suburbs to squeeze residents and commuters. As such it’s not likely to stop any time soon, regardless of what policies actually reduce crashes.

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