Illinois drivers fight back against red-light cameras

Illinois drivers fight back against red-light cameras

Motorists and Abolish Red Light Cameras have filed suit against Crestwood over the village’s red-light camera at Cicero Avenue and Cal Sag Road.

A group of Illinois drivers is standing up against a red-light camera at a widely used intersection in the Cook County village of Crestwood.

Abolish Red Light Cameras, an anti-red-light-camera group, and three motorists filed a class-action lawsuit against the village of Crestwood on Oct. 5, according to ABC 7 Chicago Eyewitness News. The lawsuit seeks to cancel more than 56,000 tickets issued based on evidence from the red-light camera at the intersection of Cicero Avenue and Cal Sag Road. The tickets are estimated to have generated $3.1 million for Crestwood.

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The drivers claim that there are no stoplights visible for motorists when taking the right-hand turning lane. But Crestwood village officials say otherwise.

Crestwood’s red-light camera setup is just one of a plethora of similar cameras that have been put up across Chicagoland, and Crestwood’s case is not dissimilar to the concerns red-light cameras have raised in other communities.

A Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, has progressively lowered its standard for allowing red-light cameras on state roads. Twenty-five percent of IDOT-approved cameras were placed in intersections where there hadn’t been a red-light-related crash in three years, and 50 percent of IDOT-approved cameras were for intersections IDOT had deemed to be among the safest in the state according to its own studies.

That same investigation also shed light on the controversial installation of the Oakbrook Terrace red-light camera at the intersection of Illinois Route 83 and 22nd Street. Oakbrook Terrace and camera firm SafeSpeed LLC sought to install a red-light camera at the intersection in 2015 despite the fact that the number of violations in that intersection had declined by half since 2013, when Oakbrook Terrace had previously applied to IDOT to install the camera.

But after Oakbrook Terrace applied renewed vigor and enlisted assistance from a couple of state lawmakers, IDOT eventually approved the camera installation in Oakbrook Terrace.

Chicago’s history of red-light cameras is controversial and riddled with cases of proven corruption, including the infamous John Bills-Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. case. In July, the city agreed to a settlement worth $38.75 million for illegally issuing red-light and speed tickets. The lawsuit that resulted in the eventual settlement alleged the city failed to give second violation notices before issuing liability determinations, failed to specify makes of vehicles, and charged late fees 21 days after the determined liability, instead of the required 25-day period.

And despite all this trouble, there’s evidence that red-light cameras don’t even work.

According to the National Motorists Association, a majority of independent studies show that red-light cameras actually increase the amount of car accidents at controlled intersections.

However, there is a reason many local governments in Illinois want red-light cameras. Red-light cameras are an easy way to get revenue for cash-strapped local governments. Instead of raising taxes on local residents, red-light cameras raise revenue from motorists who may or may not reside within the local area. And, as camera firms such as SafeSpeed have a vested interest in making sure local governments use their products, and it’s no surprise that both local governments and camera firms want red-light cameras at busy intersections.

Motorists are right to be irate about Illinois’ red-light cameras. They are installed to make money, not stop crashes. The huge amounts of revenue they generate are a feature, not a bug.

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