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Lawmaker Wants To Ditch Red-Light Cameras

Thomas Hawk via Flickr
CC BY-NC 2.0

Amid a federal corruption probe, a suburban Chicago lawmaker wants to effectively ban red-light cameras.

The company SafeSpeed has contracts to provide red-light cameras to several Chicago suburbs. And it's reportedly part of a federal investigation driving raids on several suburban municipal offices and on the offices and home of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. Late last week the Chicago Democrat resigned his powerful position as head of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Republican Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville is sponsoring legislation that would repeal the 2006 law allowing the cameras. Other lawmakers also filed bills earlier this year on the issue.

“There's other ways to keep people safe. I just think that this (has) gone too far down the path of corruption. It's an unnecessary cash grab, and it's time to get rid of red-light cameras in Illinois,” Wehrli said.

The law allows the cameras in cities in Cook and the collar counties, as well as in Madison and St. Clair counties near St. Louis.

The conservative Illinois Policy Institute recently did an analysis estimating that Illinois local governments collected more than $1 billion in red-light camera revenue from 2008 to 2018.

Officials with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Municipal League both have taken neutral stances on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — backed by insurance companies —defends the cameras.

Chief researcher Chuck Farmer says they reduce red-light violations, serious injuries and deaths.

“Our studies have shown that when you put in red-light cameras, you do improve driver behavior. You have people actually stopping for the light,” he said. “We cut down on those that that try to rush through it and try to save their time because they think it's more valuable than the rest of us.”

Farmer concedes other studies have shown cameras leading to more rear-end crashes, which are less dangerous.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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