Red-light camera program hits the brakes — uncertain future for effort to reduce Chicago car accidents

The city’s budget crunch is putting the brakes on the metro area’s planned network of 330 red-light cameras aimed at reducing Chicago car accidents.

Many car accidents occur at intersections or are caused by drivers violating traffic laws. The Chicago injury lawyers and wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes have been following this issue as more and more cases nationwide attempt to introduce camera evidence in courtroom proceedings.

Earlier this summer we posted a report by the Daily Herald questioning whether some of the cameras were going up to reduce accidents or maximize ticket revenue.

The city collected almost $38 million and issued more than half a million tickets for traffic infractions caught on the intersection cameras in the first eight months of the year, according to The Sun-Times.

Annual tickets and revenue increased from $4.7 million and 109,441 tickets during the first year of the program in 2004 to $44.8 million and 579,560 tickets last year.

But Mayor Daley’s 2010 budget includes no additional money for cameras after adding 50 cameras to intersections this year, which brings the citywide total to 189.

Instead, the Chicago Department of Transportation plans to take 20 existing cameras from their current locations and move them to other intersections, where they believe the cameras would positively impact traffic safety, according to The Sun-Times report.

The 50 cameras installed this year cost $2.8 million and $50,000 each per year to maintain and support, according to city budget figures.

“It’s a cost-saving measure. We’re reducing our capital outlay,” said Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Budget and Management.

Scales said the city is comfortable with moving cameras from identified intersections, citing a 60 percent drop in red-light violations since the cameras were installed.

Cost of a ticket for running a light caught on camera is $100, though some city officials have suggested increasing that to $125. Motorists caught on camera get the ticket in the mail, along with a digital photograph of the violation. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court shot down the “innocent owner’s defense,” an argument that an owner was held responsible for the violation of someone else who might have been driving the car.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in an accident, the Chicago car accident 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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