Expanded photo enforcement signed into law in Illinois

| 6/2/2006

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has signed a bill into law authorizing local governments to use photo enforcement at traffic signals. The new law took effect May 20.

“Too many drivers think that running a red light isn’t a big deal or that they won’t get caught,” Blagojevich said in a written statement. “It is a big deal because it’s dangerous and now, with photo enforcement, they will get caught.”

The new law, previously HB4835, authorizes the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will and in cities within those counties to post cameras at traffic lights. The city of Chicago already uses red light cameras.

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

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

Blagojevich also signed a bill authorizing the use of automated cameras at railroad crossings.

The new law, previously SB2865, is in response to a 2005 accident in Elmwood Park where a Metra train struck several vehicles caught on the tracks at the Grand Avenue crossing during rush hour. The wreck injured 16 people.

Starting Jan. 1, 2007, local governments can use photo enforcement to crackdown on drivers who go around lowered crossing gates or stop on railroad tracks.

Violators will face a $250 fine or 25 hours of community service. Repeat offenders will face a $500 fine and at least a six-month suspension of vehicle registration.

The Illinois Department of Transportation will work with local governments to identify intersections and rail crossings where cameras should be installed.

One other photo enforcement effort signed into law prohibits the Illinois State Police from issuing photo-radar speeding tickets in areas outside of construction zones. Outside work areas, officers will be required to witness a speeding violation.

The new law, previously SB2650, is intended to clarify existing state law.

State Police photo enforcement vans use cameras and radar to nab speeders. The images capture the vehicle’s license plate, speed and the driver’s face. Tickets are then mailed to vehicle owners.

Two vans will hit the roads early this summer to monitor construction zones in the Chicago area. Another van will watch work areas elsewhere in the state.

The new law also requires that work-zone speeding tickets only be issued when workers were present. Authorities will have to prove at least one road worker was on duty before they could issue a ticket.

Speeders will face $375 fines. Repeat offenders will pay as much as $1,000 and the possibility of losing their licenses for 90 days.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor