Chicago car accident lawyers continue to monitor debate over red-light cameras

The issue of red-light cameras and their ability to reduce car accidents at Chicago-area intersections continues to make news. The Daily Herald is investigating whether the cameras are going up throughout suburbia as an effort to reduce traffic accidents or to raise the most money from unsuspecting drivers.

The Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes looked at the issue last month, writing on our sister blog,, that 143 accident-prone Chicago intersections are already equipped with the cameras, with 330 expected to be in place by 2012.

Abels & Annes continues to monitor the issues as more and more accident attorneys seek to use the tapes in court as evidence against negligent driver.

Traffic violations at intersections are one of the leading causes of traffic deaths in this country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 6,024 fatalities at stop signs or traffic signals in 2007 and more than 600,000 injuries.

But the Daily Herald investigation is raising more questions about the motivation of placing the cameras throughout suburbia, where at least 84 cameras are now up in 28 North, West and Norhwest suburbs.Among the Daily Herald findings:
• Most of the $100 red-light tickets are issued for turning right without coming to a complete stop. Traffic experts question the value of making this such a high priority, since it results in few serious accidents.

• A number of towns want to put cameras at intersections that don’t appear to have a problem with red-light related crashes. In some cases, cameras are now at intersections that have only one or two crashes a year linked to red-light violations.

• The appeals process used across the suburbs is so varied, the Daily Herald found some towns have never thrown out a ticket while others reverse up to a quarter of all those contested.

• The focus on right-turn violations and low-crash sites not only calls into question the motive for placing cameras, but also undermines efforts to determine if they are actually working to improve safety.

Meanwhile, Marcie Schatz, Naperville’s transportation, engineering and development director, wrote in the Naperville Sun that the cameras in that community are being installed with the sole purpose of reducing accidents at problem intersections.

Schatz acknowledged some of the controversy stems from the fact that 1 in 3 motorists are against the use of cameras to enforce traffic laws.Naperville currently has one red-light camera and is considering the installation of two additional camera systems. City officials contend the locations are being selected based on crash statistics and the goal of the program is simply to reduce crashes at accident-prone intersections.

“We have designed our program around reducing the chances that you and your loved ones will end up in the hospital because of an injury-causing crash,” Schatz wrote. “Red-light cameras are making a difference in Naperville. They are helping to reduce the number of crashes on city streets, and the data proves it.”

Citing the effectiveness of the cameras, Schatz wrote:

• Total crashes are down 13.7 percent from 24.3 to 21

• Angle and turning crashes are down 80 percent from 5 to 1
• Injury crashes are down 46 percent from 3.7 to 2
• Red-light violations are down slightly from a high of 32.61 per day in February to 28.20 in April

• Rear-end collisions are up slightly, from an average of 15.3 to 16 for a four-month period

Meanwhile, in Chicago last month City Council Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke proposed increasing the fine from $100 to $125 and using the extra money to require offenders to complete a “Red Light Education Program.”

“Clearly, when you’re talking about 27 percent of the six million accidents that occur on U.S. roadways every year occurring at intersections, it would seem to be a move in the right direction,” Burke told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago red-light cameras are already installed at 143 accident-prone intersections in the city – with 39 more expected to go up later this year and 330 intersections expected to have cameras by 2012.

The Sun-Times notes that while changing driver behavior is the ultimate goal, the cameras have become a giant cash cow for the city — generating $44.8 million last year. And earlier this year council was pitched a proposal that claimed $200 million a year could be made by using the cameras with a program that referenced insurance data to hunt down uninsured motorists.

If you or someone you love has been in a Chicago car accident, the personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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