Expanded photo enforcement advances in Illinois

| 5/27/2008

A bill nearing passage in the Illinois statehouse would expand the use of cameras to ticket red-light runners at intersections.

Illinois law now allows local governments in eight counties to use the cameras as an enforcement tool at traffic signals. A bill awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor – HB5288 – would add six more counties to the list. If approved, it would head back to the House for approval of changes before moving to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s desk.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ or speeders’ vehicles and license plates. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Violators face up to a $100 fine. Those with five unpaid tickets on their record could have their driving privileges suspended.

Advocates say the bill is about safety and using technology in a helpful way. Others say authorizing use of cameras frees up police to address bigger issues.

Opponents, including trucking industry officials, question the claim that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe.

“The motivation of every player in this deal is economics, whether it’s the local jurisdiction or the manufacturer,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “That’s not reasonable justification.”

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents. In fact, multiple studies have found that crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras.

Counties, as well as local governments in those counties, would be authorized to set up camera enforcement in DeKalb, LaSalle, McLean, Peoria, Sangamon and Winnebago. The Senate Transportation Committee removed Champaign and Vermilion counties from the list.

The enforcement tool already is allowed in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will and in the cities within those counties. The city of Chicago also uses red light cameras.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor