New bill would stop suspending Illinois driver’s licenses for unpaid red-light camera tickets
Red-light cameras have been the subject of an ongoing federal investigation that has lead to the arrest of numerous public officials.
Senate Bill 3376, filed by state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, would ensure drivers can no longer have their license suspended for not paying red-light camera tickets. And drivers who currently have their license suspended due to unpaid red-light camera fines would have their license reinstated.
Thousands of low-income Illinoisans have been forced to pay red-light camera fines to avoid having their license suspended, even if they felt the ticket was not justified or that corrupt officials led to the cameras’ installation in the first place. Each ticket can cost drivers up to $100 a pop.
Villanueva was appointed to the Senate in January to replace Martin Sandoval. Sandoval was charged in an ongoing federal probe involving red-light camera vender SafeSpeed. He used his position as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee to convince Illinois Department of Transportation officials to install red-light cameras in Oakbrook Terrace even after the department’s own study found cameras would not improve the safety of the intersection. The cameras have since generated over $9 million in revenue in their first two years of operation. Sandoval then received the largest political donation in SafeSpeed’s history, $10,000.
The cameras are responsible for taking $1 billion from drivers in Illinois between 2008 and 2018, according to an Illinois Policy Institute investigation. Studies show they fail to improve traffic safety and increase some types of collisions, serving mainly as municipal cash grabs.
The realization that red-light cameras have been leading to corruption has caused officials to take action to stop the devices from being used to take advantage of drivers. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said her office will no longer assist municipalities collecting unpaid fines from drivers.
“The comptroller’s office isn’t going to be in the business [of helping] a program that’s broken and morally corrupt,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza also encouraged towns to reconsider their programs in light of the corruption investigations.
“I’m exercising my moral authority to prevent state resources being used to assist a process that, frankly, victimizes taxpayers,” she said.
Multiple bills have also been introduced in the General Assembly to remove red-light cameras throughout the state.
The furthest along is House Bill 322, which is sponsored state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington, and a long list of bipartisan representatives. The proposal bans red-light cameras in non-home rule communities. This could remove cameras in 45 of the 101 communities with red-light cameras if signed into law.
Another bill was introduced that would ban the cameras in Illinois. Senate Bill 2902 is sponsored by state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, and includes home-rule municipalities in the ban – meaning the cameras would be outlawed throughout Illinois.
Illinois taxpayers are fed up with paying for corrupt practices that feed the pockets of politicians. Red-light cameras have proven to be more about generating revenue for a few individuals – not about the safety of Illinois’ roadways.