More Steps Emanuel Should Take to Reform Chicago’s Traffic Cam Program

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Photo: John Greenfield

Even if you voted for Chuy García, if you know how effective automated enforcement has been for preventing serious crashes in other cities, you may be relieved he didn’t get a chance to shut down all of Chicago’s traffic cameras. However, García and the other challengers did residents a service by drawing attention to ways that the Emanuel administration has mismanaged the program, which forced the mayor to take steps to reform it.

In early March, a few days after García said he would abolish the cams, Emanuel announced he would remove 50 red light cameras at 25 intersections that saw one or fewer right-angle crashes in 2013. He also promised to install pedestrian countdown signals at the 42 out of the city’s 174 red-light camera intersections that don’t currently have them, by June 1.

Emanuel proposed giving drivers a “Mulligan” on their first red light violation by allowing them to take an online safety course instead of paying the $100 fine. And he promised that community meetings will be held before red light cameras are installed, moved, or removed. Here are some more steps the mayor should take to make automated enforcement more effective, transparent, and fair.

Monitor cameras more carefully to make sure they are working properly. While the Chicago Tribune has delivered consistently biased coverage of the program, the paper deserves credit for exposing irregularities in enforcement, such as unexplained spikes in ticketing. For example, one North Side camera issued only a dozen tickets for rolling right turns over six months, and then put out 560 tickets for rolling rights within 12 days. The city needs to be vigilant about ticket spikes in the future and immediately address problems that emerge.

Remove cameras from other low-crash locations. It was definitely a step in the right direction to remove cameras from those first 25 low-crash intersections. When cams are installed at locations that don’t have a significant crash problem, it suggests that these sites were chosen with revenue — rather than safety — in mind. According to a Tribune study, there are 61 other intersections that had three or fewer injury crashes before cameras were installed. The mayor should shut down those cams as well.

Don’t include ticket revenue as a projected funding source in the city budget. If the red light and speed cams are doing their jobs to reduce violations, the number of tickets issued should drop within a few months of installation, which has been the case in Chicago. As a result, revenue from the cams has been lower than projected. Fines should be treated as a way to deter lawbreaking, not as an end in themselves, so the city should not count on them to balance the budget.

Be transparent about changes to the program. It’s a common misconception that the Emanuel shortened yellow light times in order to increase ticket revenue. That wasn’t the case, but the city did quietly change its policy to allow tickets to be issued after yellow phases that were a fraction of a second shorter than 3.0 seconds, to allow for minute electrical fluctuations. That move was legal under state law, and the motorists who ran reds after minutely shorter yellows deserved tickets. However, it was politically foolish to make the change without announcing it in advance, because it was only a matter of time before people noticed, which fueled mistrust for the program.

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Contrary to popular belief, traffic cams are concentrated on the North Side.

Dispel the myth that the cameras unfairly target low-income neighborhoods. Another common belief is that the majority of red light and speed cams are concentrated on the South and West Sides. A glance at a map of camera locations reveals that isn’t true. Meanwhile, the worst intersections for pedestrian crashes involving children are in low-income neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. From my experience scanning the dailies for Today’s Headlines, it also appears that most of Chicago’s serious car crashes take place in these communities, so their residents have the most to gain from better traffic enforcement.

Reduce the fines, or create a sliding scale. Opponents have characterized the $100 tickets for running reds and speeding as a regressive tax. However, the fines are completely avoidable, and there’s no correlation between income level and the ability to step on a brake pedal. On the other hand, if the city’s chief goal is to reduce the number of serious crashes, rather than raise revenue, perhaps a $75 or $50 fine would be a sufficient deterrent, and would be less of a hardship for low-income and working-class Chicagoans. Ideally, we would follow the lead of European countries that have made traffic fines proportionate to income.

Change the state law to allow speed cameras to be installed outside of school and park zones. To win approval for Chicago’s speed camera program in Springfield, Emanuel promoted the cams as a way to protect children, and proposed a state law that only allows installation within an eighth mile of schools and parks. However, the city should be allowed to place speed cams anywhere there’s a speeding problem, since adults are also endangered by speeders. When cameras are installed near small parks with low foot traffic in order to address a general crash problem in the area, it makes people question whether the cams are there for revenue, rather than to protect park goers. Granted, changing the state law would be an uphill battle, but maybe it’s worth a try.

Make damn sure the mayor’s motorcades doesn’t run reds. Over the last three years, there have been at least 22 incidents where the tail car of Emanuel’s two-car motorcade has been caught on camera proceeding through a red after the lead car passed through a yellow. Although Emanuel said he would pay all the tickets, the red light running is an embarrassment that undermines his credibility on safety issues. A new protocol is needed: When the light turns yellow, the lead car stops.

  • Anne A

    “the worst intersections for pedestrian crashes involving children are in low-income neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. From my experience scanning the dailies for Today’s Headlines, it also appears that most of Chicago’s serious car crashes take place in these communities, so their residents have the most to gain from better traffic enforcement.”

    Yes!!!

    “…the city should be allowed to place speed cams anywhere there’s a speeding problem, since adults are also endangered by speeders.”

    Absolutely.

    “When cameras are installed near small parks with low foot traffic in order to address a general crash problem in the area, it makes people question whether the cams are there for revenue, rather than to protect park goers.”

    I’m guessing that the Major Taylor Trail cameras on 127th St. have probably gotten this kind of resistance. However, in that location and probably in other locations fitting your description, the speed reduction due to cameras also provides a significant safety benefit to neighbors trying to get in or out of their driveways or streets.

  • Brian

    Believe me – the state legislature will not expand the usage of cameras. Thankfully enough of the curtain has been pulled back to expose this program for what it really is – to make money. There are no safety benefits whatsoever.

    Intersections should be properly engineered, with yellow light times extended to allow cars to safely pass through.

    My guess is all of the cameras will be gone within a few years.

  • Eli N

    “…there’s no correlation between income level and the ability to step on a brake pedal.”

    I have to take issue here–there certainly is a correlation, and it’s direct, not inverse. Drivers are richer and whiter than the population at large and than cyclists, which is why painting these fines as regressive is the worst kind of reactionary demagoguery. I think it is important that we push back firmly against this false narrative every chance we get.

    An example of a legitimately regressive fine is the $200 fine for biking on the sidewalk along parts of Sheridan Road (which incidentally has zero bike infrastructure of any kind). Unlike the red light cameras, this fine targets a group which is poorer than the population at large. (And of course it’s double the red-light camera fine, even though as far as I’m aware not a single fatality has ever occurred as a result of someone riding on the sidewalk alongside Sheridan Road.)

  • Pat

    This may go with #5 and #7, but if the city really wants to legitimize the cameras, they need to be placed all around parks (especially popular ones), and not just a few specific areas.

    For Humboldt Park, why a speed camera on Humboldt, but not a dangerous 4-lane, hard to cross, speedway like North Ave?

    Why are there no speed cameras on Clark, Cannon, Fullerton, and Stockton in Lincoln Park? All those streets see tons of pedestrian (and child) traffic for people coming to and from the lakefront and zoo.

    Aside, have you ever noticed that the edge of Lincoln Park (aside from Clark) is ringed with stop signs at every intersection? Why make it so easy to get into the park but then allow streets like Stockton to speed through it? That never made any sense to me.

  • CAMoss

    “Drivers are richer and whiter than the population at large and than cyclists”

    Eli, do you have Chicago data to support your claim? Especially the drivers vs. cyclists?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    There have been several incidents over the years where cyclists have hit seniors on Sheridan Road in Edgewater. There are bike lanes on Kenmore and Winthrop (1 and 2 blocks away, respectively.)

  • BB

    What about longer yellow times? What is the argument against doing that?

  • Logan Square Dad

    I think it’s a mistake to think that a new, expensive, traffic technology will change the way people drive in major cities anymore than technology or devices can change other dangerous habits like smoking or drug use. The thing that is missing in this equation is the simplest and most effective thing. EDUCATION.

    If one compares reckless driving to smoking, it is easy to see that a generation of education has had much more impact than a generation of taxation leading to rising prices.

    Why not educate drivers and communities about the danger, high-cost and negative consequences of driving recklessly? If we start educating people now (not just people in driver’s ed) we will soon have a generation of drivers that grew up understanding how to operate their vehicles safely in urban areas and everywhere else.

    And, as any civic planner, researcher or social scientist will tell you, education is always less expensive than enforcement.

  • “I think it’s a mistake to think that a new, expensive, traffic technology will change the way people drive in major cities…”

    But speed cameras have changed the way people drive in major cities. We’ve posted citations to numerous studies that show this.

  • The quality of driver’s education, and the requirement to receive such education before obtaining a driver’s license, is indeed deficient.

    However, even if education was different, and assumedly “better”, it still competes with the present design realities that aren’t in line with how we say people should be driving.

    We want people to drive slower, yet we repaved Fullerton Avenue through Logan Square to have expressway-width lanes that make it easy to drive fast without feeling that the speed at which one is driving is dangerous.

  • I don’t think I understand your position. Do you believe that certain income levels are actually correlated with a driver’s ability to slow down and avoid running a red light?

  • I don’t have a problem with slightly increasing the yellow times, but it’s not really necessary to do this to make the red light cam program fair to drivers. Chicago has had three-second yellows for decades.

  • Logan Square Dad

    You can stop people from smoking inside a building by making it illegal. Trouble is, they just step outside and smoke.

    Speed cameras stop people from speeding where there are speed cameras. But, people continue to drive recklessly in other places.

    Neither the speed camera or the no smoking sign solved the problem (even though simple, un-weighted research may show a change). The problem still remains and will remain until people believe that A) Smoking is a bad idea and has high, personal consequences AND B) Driving recklessly is a bad idea and has high, personal consequences.

  • BBB

    Right. I was thinking more of pedestrians and bicyclists. I believe they would gain safety/comfort from a slightly longer yellow phase. Is that so, do you think? I am pretty sure that you read the Trib article — http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82373025/. I suppose the Trib is just plain biased against red-light and speed cameras but the information they report in this article on practices in other cities is interesting and enlightening. I still wonder what the “real problem is” with — or argument against — going from 3 seconds to 3.3 or 3.5 for yellow? Why is the City of Chicago against that? Also, has anyone ever studied the City of Chicago’s signal timing for ped crossings generally vs. other cities? Walking speeds for seniors, disabled, children, and children-wrangling parents is what it is and should be accommodated, I think. A lot can be done with signals to improve conditions for peds (and bikes), but the thought or point against this is that such measures are at odds with automobile mobility, I think. Also, what is the real, rational “argument against” speed cameras?

  • Thus street design is the powerful change we can make. We still have a lot to go because a lot of our street design currently “disagrees” with our stated and expressed values about safety, climate change, and business patronage.

    There’s a design aspect to smoking cessation, too, and it comes from a social design and engineering.

  • Pat

    While no smoking ordinances and the like mark a shift in health policy and do discourage smoking overall, they were instituted to prevent others from dealing with the ill effects of secondhand smoke. A speed camera may not change the habit of a driver overall, but they can save the lives of others especially when instituted in high-crash areas. Smoking is a personal choice that primarily affects you, where speeding affects you and all the other road (and sidewalk) users.

    Back to your smoking analogy, I think most smokers assume they must go outside to smoke now, no smoking sign or not. Habits have been changed. If you have enough cameras, drivers will think there is always a camera, and they too will change their behavior.

  • Logan Square Dad

    Sure. Design is a great solution. Especially when considered outside the criteria of budget or efficiency.

    For example, let’s say Fullerton is redesigned to better fit the criteria discussed. Awesome. Everyone who drives on Fullerton (let’s say 2000 vehicle per day or approx 3000 people) are positively effected. And let’s say the cost is $3MM.

    Now, take that same $3MM and use it to place 15 second television ads or programmatic online advertising. It’s likely you will be able to reach 3-5 million people. And, not only do these people drive more safely on Fullerton, they drive more safely everywhere.

    The numbers are rough and offer no guarantees (i.e. the redesign on Fullerton may save the life of the kid who grows up to cure cancer or the TV spots might suck and have less affect than planned) BUT, the simple tenant remains true, place based design, engineering and technology will always have less effect than educating the population.

    Think of it like the chastity belt verses sex education. I’ll let you tell me which one is more effective.

  • Jim Mitchell

    I think Eli’s position is that those of certain (higher) income levels are the ones who are driving at all, and those below those levels are not driving. From this, Eli seems to be concluding that all or at least most car owners are wealthy (enough) that the fines imposed on them by red light cameras should not be considered regressive — i.e., they can afford to pay them. I hope I have not straw-manned Eli’s argument. But I don’t agree with it, at least not anecdotally. A trip up and down Cicero to look at the buy-here, pay-here used car lots kind of puts the lie to it. Lots of non-wealthy people own and drive cars in Chicago — and many of them would probably miss a car payment (and lose their buy-her, pay-here finance vehicle) if they got hit with a $100 red light ticket.

  • Deni

    You are just flat out wrong. A redesigned street can change the way drivers use that street, based on the conditions they have in front of them. We have our own examples right here in this city, look at the significant reduction in speeds on streets put on “road diets” as just one example. All the ads in the world to tell people to drive safe don’t do squat.

  • cjlane

    “All the ads in the world to tell people to drive safe don’t do squat.”

    Ok, then we should redirect all of the funds for “buckle up” and “don’t drink and drive” advertising to anything else, since they are completely ineffective. Guess the increasing seatbelt use rates, and decreased drunk driving rates are all down to enforcement.

  • cjlane

    “I was thinking more of pedestrians and bicyclists. I believe they would gain safety/comfort from a slightly longer yellow phase.”

    Many signals around Chicago (esp in/near the loop) have had a switching delay added–so there is a second or two between when N-S goes red and when E-W turns green, which is a greater benefit to pedestrians (at least) than a longer yellow.

  • Logan Square Dad

    Deni – Of course you correct. Redesigning the street does produce positive outcomes for that stretch of street. In the same way that a no smoking sign gets people to stop smoking in that area.

    But smokers and drivers inevitably move to other locations and continue practicing hazardous behavior. It’s only after the drivers and smokers themselves accept the behavior as dangerous and non-productive do you get true change.

    And education is not the same as “to tell people”. Education is the sharing of knowledge and consequences. For example, you don’t “tell” someone to read. You teach them to understand the alphabet.

    I go back to the example of the chastity belt. At one time these were heralded as the solution to unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get anyone to wear them. After a few hundred years of strum and durm, modern society figured out (in most places except Mississippi) that sex education was a much better way to help people understand the consequences of pregnancy.

  • Logan Square Dad

    Agreed. The seat belt education program is an exceptional example of how education (often through advertising) completely transformed people’s perception of how to operate and ride in a car safely. In the course of one generation (20 years), seat belts went from optional to a habitual practice. And the results have been spectacular with literally hundreds of thousands of lives saved.

  • Deni

    Yes, they are all due to enforcement.

  • Deni

    There were ads encouraging seat belt use for years, with very little effect. But when it became a law that people got tickets for, that’s when the culture changed.

  • Deni

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with your analogy (bizarre as it is) but you have it backwards. Ads telling people to drive safe are the old, useless way. Street designs and enforcement are the thing we have learned works.

  • Logan Square Dad

    Deni – The law absolutely helped increase the use of seatbelts, no doubt. But it wasn’t the law alone. Educating drivers to the benefits of seat belts is a large part of the reason that seat belt use is near universal in the states.

    And consider this, smoking has been greatly reduced over the past 20 years but is 100% legal. Teenage pregnancy has been greatly reduced and is 100% legal. One can consume as much unhealthy food as one wants but McDonald’s sales are down. All of this and more come from education.

    A better educated driver will be a safer driver.

  • Deni

    Education doesn’t work for all things. Smoking being down has a lot to do with not being allowed to smoke indoors just about anywhere and taxes making cigarettes so expensive that less people take up smoking. So in that case it was legal rules that made the big difference, not education alone (I would argue that education was a much smaller part of the culture change). So in the case of smoking I think that supports my argument and not yours.

    Your other analogies are pretty pointless and don’t really correlate. Besides, just because McDonalds sales are down does not mean people are eating better, obesity (especially childhood obesity) is still rising in this country so education really hasn’t done much there either.

    And again, the education about seat belts didn’t really make a difference until the laws came in to play so you continue to make an argument that is just wrong.

  • cjlane

    Huh. You have a cite for that, w/r/t drunk driving?

  • Fred

    And they have been wrong for decades. You cannot change physics or human limitations with a notification. To stop red light running one must design the system in accordance with physical laws.

    Before the ITE standards started changing in the 1980s for the benefit of automated enforcement there was not a red light running problem. After a number of changes to allow shorter yellows a problem was created that justified photo enforcement. Even the standard itself was changed to ‘use enforcement’ instead of the previous engineering methods that were proven effective and remain effective today.

    The simple fact is that increasing the yellow signal to match the 1970s standard strangles red light camera revenue to a trickle. Everywhere that courts or state law has forced a municipality to even come close to this has had their red light camera program tank financially or ended before it could.

    The only reason to oppose proper engineering of traffic control devices is for the benefit of municipal government and crony contractors or an anti-driving agenda.

  • fred

    Speed cameras like red light cameras exploit defects. In this case mismatches between road conditions and posted speed limits.

    If the speed limit was set to the road or the road designed to match the speed limit then the camera wouldn’t turn a profit.

    The locations the city of chicago has chosen show they and their contractor understand where the mismatches are. Every location I am familiar with where a speed camera has been placed has been the exact spot where road conditions and speed limit diverge from one another. The location where I would put it to generate the most revenue. Not keep children safe or any other such excuse, but to make money by exploiting a defect. Not one block over but exactly where I would put it with my knowledge.

  • fred

    The most effective is to design the road to have an 85th percentile speed that is the desired PSL.

    Time and time again it has been proven that people drive the speed they believe to be safe for the road in question even if the PSL is far higher. If you want slow roads design slow roads. If you want fast roads design fast roads. Do not build fast roads and expect people to go slowly unless you want to collect speeding fines.

    Education doesn’t work when reality doesn’t match it. “speed kills” is the oldest driving education theme by decades. It predates everything else and hasn’t worked yet because the problems are usually the result of speed limits not matching reality. This was made far worse by the 55mph NMSL. When speed limits are routinely under posted it discredits the ones that are posted well.

  • Chris Chaten

    Those end at Loyola. No good infrastructure to get from the end of the LFP to Rogers Park or Evanston (or to patronize the businesses/restaurants on Sheridan.

  • BB

    Still, no one is answering my question: “What is the problem with — or argument against
    — going from 3 seconds to 3.3 or 3.5 for yellow? Why, exactly, is the City of
    Chicago against this?” Nor has anyone answered this question: “What is argument against speed cameras?” (As opposed to red light cameras, which under some conditions — like short yellows — may be seen to aggravate/increase accidents.)

  • cjlane

    “Nor has anyone answered this question: “What is argument against speed cameras?””

    Seriously? Not a rhetorical question?

    You just have to seek out the cranks on more general-interest websites, the “arguments” are legion, but mostly without much merit. “disguised tax”, “misrepresented purpose”, “Big Brother”, etc etc. in similar veins.

    The longer yellow has more reality-based concerns–the length of yellow (actually amber) is, under good traffic engineering principles, supposed to be tied to traffic speed and, sometimes, volume. There is sufficient evidence to support that (not *prove*, *support*) yellows longer than ‘standard’ encourage people to speed up to beat the red, and that behavior is certainly a negative for safety. If the issue is solely *safety*, there isn’t sufficient evidence that a longer yellow would reduce collisions. The delay in switching red/green (that is, have a second when both directions are red) accomplishes the safety goal, without increasing the length of the ambiguous period (ie, lawful or not to proceed??) of the yellow.

  • BB

    Thanks. Re so-called arguments against speed cameras — I suspected as much: there are, in fact, no rational, scientific, real arguments against them. The “arguments” are, quite simply, bogus. Your point about longer amber times is well-taken. That makes sense — especially if the amber times were TOO long, which obviously they can be. They can also be TOO short. The “right time” is the goal. I would think that another 0.3 seconds or so IN COMBINATION WITH the delay in switching red/green — along with (in urbanized areas) other measures like Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI), No Right Turn on Red, etc. would all be good to consider — and at times in combination(s) with each other. My main point is that, like some Scandinavian and other countries, we need to put the safety of vulnerable road users/modes ahead of drivers, who are protected by their car chassis. I.e. clearly prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Doing so, actually makes drivers safer too. The only clear reason for not doing so, that I can see, is old and old-fashioned engineering ideas about throughput, congestion, and delay to automobile travel. I’m guessing that this old automobile-centered, fear-of-congestion thinking is at the heart of Chicago’s long-standing (i.e. pre a strong concern for peds and bikes) 3-second amber. Now, that Chicago has shown a real commitment to peds and bikes as legitimate roadway users, they should probably look at extending the amber a bit — along with other signal modifications like red/green delay, and, perhaps most importantly, timings that allow seniors and disabled to safely cross roads.

  • Logan Square Dad

    Deni – I’m pretty certain that neither of our arguments will meet a disciplined criteria for correlation. But, I feel confident in saying that both have merits. I feel confident as well that none of the discussion taking place above is “pointless”.

    But, in regards to your efforts to discredit education, I do wish to share one, last experience. I have young children. They know nothing about the costs or the laws that accompany smoking. But they both see smoking in a negative light and are both mystified that people smoke. I’ve asked them where they learned about smoking. The older one learned about it in health class in school. The younger one learned about from public service messages on television that run during kid’s programming.

    If Chicago or the Nation decides to get serious about making drivers safer, education is a key element towards making long-lasting, cultural change.

  • Eli N

    And as far as I’m aware, in none of those incidents has anyone died.

  • Eli N

    I apologize for the delay in my response; I’ve been traveling. This blog published some data last year showing commute mode share by income–the lowest-income group had the highest levels of bike commuting. See http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/06/11/active-trans-at-least-125000-bike-trips-in-chicago-every-day/.

  • Eli N

    Apologies for the delayed response–I’ve been busy job-hunting and traveling.

    As Jim Mitchell said, my point is that drivers–the only people subject to red-light camera fines–are (on average) wealthier than non-drivers. I think it is dishonest to talk about red-light cameras being “regressive” without acknowledging that. Perhaps these fines are regressive *within the set of all drivers*, in that wealthier drivers can better afford the fines than poorer drivers; but it is key to remember that within society as a whole this is a group that is already wealthier than the norm.

    I certainly realize that not every driver is wealthier than every non-driver. These are trends, not universal laws. I think income-graduated fines are a great idea (too many fines are set at a level that is a serious hardship for some and too low to have any dissuasive effect to others). I would strongly support such a program of truly progressive fine assessment.

    But I find it a little frustrating that these concerns only ever come up in the context of red-light cameras. I have never in my life heard a complaint about the regressive nature of library late fees, or fines for biking on the sidewalk, or for trespassing or noise ordinance violations or other misdemeanors. Only when parking or traffic fines are the topic do people discover this sudden passion for progressive fine policy. This makes me skeptical that their anger is really about regressive fines rather than about wanting to continue driving however they want and ignoring traffic laws and other people’s safety.

  • There are some intersections in Chicago where it’s impossible for bicyclists – save for those pedaling faster than 16 m.p.h. – to clear when they’ve entered on a green.

    This happens to me all the time even when I’m traveling at higher than average bicyclists speed, where I’ll enter the intersection on a green light, be in the intersection for the entire yellow phase, and still be in the intersection for the initial second or two of red. Since the all-red phase is usually only one second long I am inevitably in the intersection when the cross street has a green!

  • “And, not only do these people drive more safely on Fullerton, they drive more safely everywhere.”

    I’m saying that’s not the case. Design of the street in the situation is more powerful than any education received prior in motivating the participant (the driver, or bicyclists) to act rationally. Driving, or bicycling, is a reaction to design and other participants with a mild influence from experience and education (which is essentially a compendium of other people’s experience).

  • cjlane

    “There are some intersections in Chicago where it’s impossible for bicyclists – save for those pedaling faster than 16 m.p.h. – to clear when they’ve entered on a green.”

    Milwaukee Ave has several of them–but stretching the amber plus all-red time to the 10 seconds needed *at 15 mph* to cross 200′ at Milwaukee/Cicero/IPR isn’t really a viable option.

  • Jim Mitchell

    This is also an issue with the legal basis for issuing red light camera tickets. I support them, but it has to be remembered that these are administrative fines. As such, they are assessed against the registered owner of the car, not the driver of the car. More importantly, unlike a traditional ticket issued by a police officer, they cannot result in points against your drivers license. I agree that if you are wealthy enough to pay any number of tickets, you might feel you could drive recklessly and with financial impunity; but the threat of having your license revoked is the great leveler. Without getting into issues of driver race as a basis for enforcement (which you did tip your hat to a little in your first post), the possibility of losing your license is (supposed to be) the same for all drivers, regardless of income level. So that’s either an argument against red light cameras or in favor of finding a way to make red light ticket amounts proportionate to income of the car’s owner, but I agree that without proportionate fines, the tickets are either meaningless to a wealthy enough person, an annoyance that could result in adjusted driving behavior by a middle class person, or an objective hardship to a poor person. (And as always, be careful to whom you ever lend your car!)

  • Rigid Member

    “According to a Tribune study, there are 61 other intersections that had three or fewer injury crashes before cameras were installed. The mayor should shut down those cams as well.”

    Wasn’t the same study you guys dissed last year? p.s. Another study from Florida that used the exact same methodology found similar results as those documented in the study above.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    We weren’t critical of the Tribune’s finding that some intersections that had a low number of injury crashes got red light cameras, which is factual. Rather, we pointed out that the Trib emphasized that the number of injury crashes increased at intersections with the cams, but downplayed the fact that the cams reduced the number of right-angle crashes, which are very likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities.

    Most of the new injury crashes were rear-end crashes, which are much less likely to cause serious injuries or deaths. The result has likely been a net decrease in serious injuries, fatalities, and property damage. Here’s the relevant Streetsblog post: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/12/22/why-the-tribunes-red-light-camera-story-is-garbage-journalism/

  • Rigid Member

    Well, looking at the original report, I didn’t see where they downplayed the severity of injuries by collision type. Both for the before and after periods, the same definition of KABC severities was used, as it should. Technically, right-angle crashes are usually of smaller severities than for rear-end accidents. However, even in the after period, somebody got injured, emergency services were sent to the scene, traffic was stopped or diverted by the police force, and someone may still had to go to the hospital even with a smaller injury. I’m sure somebody was who was injured in rear-end accident won’t be happy to have been injured, even if it is “not as severe.”

    Where the severity of the injury becomes more important by collision type is for benefit/cost analyses, when the costs of injuries are different. Even then, the study conducted by the FHWA showed very marginal benefits.

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