Bill to expanded photo enforcement in Illinois falls short

| 6/6/2008

The Illinois Senate fell four votes shy of approving a bill to expand the use of cameras to ticket red-light runners at intersections.

Illinois law now allows local governments in eight counties to use the enforcement tool at traffic signals. A bill – HB5288 –sought to add six more counties to the list needed 30 votes to pass the Senate. The tally was 26-24, effectively killing it for the year.

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

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

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

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

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 have been authorized to set up camera enforcement in DeKalb, LaSalle, McLean, Peoria, Sangamon and Winnebago.

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.

A provision added to the bill on the Senate floor addressed concerns about the duration of yellow lights on intersections equipped with photo cameras. It required yellow signals to be displayed for at least three seconds.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor