Illinois lawmakers OK more expressway, DLSD cams, fail to legalize speed cams on highways
Illinois is getting more cameras on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, expressways, and interstates to help address Chicagoland’s highway shooting and carjacking epidemic. But unfortunately it appears that, for the sake of political expediency, elected officials are passing up an opportunity to do something about traffic violence on these roads. That’s because the state legislation that expands the use of the cameras explicitly forbids them from being used to enforce “petty offenses,” i.e. speeding.
On Friday Governor J.B. Pritzker signed two laws that will allow more expressway cameras to be installed in 23 Illinois counties, plus DLSD, which isn’t technically an expressway, WTTW’s Matt Masterson reported.
“There is nothing more important than keeping Illinoisans safe — in our schools, in our parks, and on our expressways,” the governor stated. “By signing this bill, law enforcement agencies will have the tools to respond to criminal activity in a timely and efficient manner — ensuring the safety and security of our residents, while holding perpetrators accountable.” Illinois’ upcoming budget earmarks $20 million for more cameras, according to Pritzker’s office.
HB 4481 expands the number of surveillance cameras in Cook County plus Boone, Bureau, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Henry, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Macon, Madison, McHenry, Morgan, Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon, St. Clair, Will, and Winnebago counties, effective immediately. But it states, “Images from the cameras may not be used to enforce petty offenses,” presumably referring to speeding and other moving violations.
HB 260 permits the use of surveillance cameras on DLSD. It allows the cams to be used by law enforcement “in the investigation of any offenses involving vehicular hijacking, aggravated vehicular hijacking, terrorism, motor vehicle theft, or any forcible felony, including, but not limited to, offenses involving the use of a firearm; to detect expressway hazards and highway conditions; and to facilitate highway safety and incident management. Images from the cameras shall not be used to enforce petty offenses or offenses not listed in this subsection, unless use of the images pertains to expressway or highway safety or hazards.”
There’s some ambiguity there, but again it appears that the cameras may not be used to enforce speeding. It’s not clear whether the footage may be used to track down drivers guilty of hit-and-run, which may be prosecuted as a felony.
But let’s not bury the lead, the additional HD cameras added to our expressways are a good thing. My community was shocked to see Denise Huguelet of Orland Park gunned down on the Dan Ryan last August for doing nothing but driving home from a Sox game. Perps never caught.
— Joseph (@Joeynach) June 7, 2022
Now, there’s no question that expressway shootings and hijackings are a major problem in our city, region, and state. According to the governor’s office, there have been 69 reported expressway shootings on Cook County expressways this year through June 2, including 32 injury cases and one death.
264 expressway shooting were reported statewide in 2021 with 114 injury cases and 22 deaths, Pritzker’s office said. That was a huge spike from 2020, when there were 72 people shot on expressways and seven killed.
So far the Illinois State Police, working with the Illinois and Chicago transportation departments, have put in over 150 license plate reader cameras on all Chicago expressways, with plans to roughly double that number this summer.
Already the Illinois State Police, along with the Chicago and Illinois departments of transportation, have installed more than 150 automated license plate readers along Chicago expressways including the Dan Ryan Expressway, I-90, I-290, I-55, and I-57. There are plans to install approximately 150 more throughout the summer.
But traffic violence is at least as pressing a problem in Illinois, which has also gotten much worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 there were 989 reported road deaths in Illinois, according to the National. In 2020 that number rose to 1,118 traffic fatalities in Illinois, according to the National Safety Council. And last year there were a full 1,324 road deaths in our state – a 34-percent increase from 2019. It’s likely a significant number of these tragic crashes involved speeding on expressways.
As long as we don’t use them to enforcce speed limits and red lights, they’re useless.
— Bikes 🚴♀️ Peace ✌ Choice ❤ (@NWChiFiets) June 7, 2022
Automated speed enforcement on expressways and DLSD would surely save lives. A recent UIC study found that from 2015-17, Chicago’s speed cams, which current state law dictates may only be installed on surface streets, prevented a total of 204 people from being injured or killed in collisions.
However, automated enforcement is hugely unpopular, in part because many drivers are uninformed about, or refuse to acknowledge the link between speeding and fatal crashes. Nationwide, “speeding-related crashes” rose by 5 percent in 2021, higher than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s been one factor in the current national traffic fatality epidemic, with 42,915 people road deaths in 2021, the most in 16 years.
Illinois lawmakers could have taken substantive action to address that problem by legalizing expressway cameras, but instead they took the politically easier step of cracking down on gun violence, without addressing traffic violence.