Picture This: Roadside Cameras Are Watching You

Most accidents, on both streets and freeways, are due to excessive speed

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jorg Greuel
    The Schaumburg president isn't sure their new red-light cameras are worth keeping. Meanwhile, IDOT is keeping a radar eye on the freeways... and has been for some time now.

    There's no telling how often your car gets photographed on the roads these days. Those surveillance cameras seem to be everywhere.

    Last fall, a red-light camera near Woodfield Mall issued approximately 10,000 tickets in the span of three months. Because of the setup of the intersection, most motorists assumed they could turn right at the intersection without stopping, which would trigger the camera system.

    The city of Schaumburg removed the problematic cameras. The few that remain have recorded "very few violations" for illegal turns, according to Schaumburg Police Chief Brian Howerton.

    Village President Al Larson argues that the red-light cameras aren't worth keeping if they're only catching a handful of lawbreakers.

    "I think the camera should go," Larson told the Sun-Times. "It wasn't doing what it was supposed to do."

    Larson had hoped the cameras would prevent accidents, but recent data suggests that most collisions are not caused by red-light runners. In Schaumburg, at the 10 intersections with the most accidents, less than 2 percent of accidents were caused by traffic signal violations. Most were caused by drivers who failed to slow down.

    "We're trying to be a town that's attractive to shoppers and tourists, and harassing them with red-light cameras when there's no justification from a public-safety standpoint just doesn't make sense," Larson said.

    And while the cameras might be taken down in Schaumburg, the surveillance is still in full force on Illinois' freeways.

    This month, several people received the following e-mail:

    Illinois will begin using photo radar in freeway work zones in July. One mile per hour over the speed limit and the machine will get out a nice $375.00 ticket in the mail. Beginning July 1st, the State of Illinois will begin using the speed cameras in areas designated as "Work Zones" on major freeways. Anyone caught by these devices will be mailed a $375.00 ticket for the FIRST offense. The SECOND offense will cost $1000.00 and comes with a 90-day suspension. Drivers will also receive demerit points against their license, which allow insurance companies to raise insurance rates.

    This is the harshest penalty structure ever set for a governmental unit involving photo speed enforcement. The State already has two camera vans online issuing tickets 24/7 in work zones with speed limits lowered to 45 MPH. Photos of both the driver's face and license plate are taken. Pass this on to everyone you know who might be affected.

    While the Illinois Department of Transportation has said that the "one mile per hour over the speed limit" line is excessive, this e-mail is fairly accurate. However, this policy has been in place since 2005.

    Illinois enacted these tough laws in 2005 for the safety of construction and road workers. In 2003, there were 44 deaths in construction zones. That number dropped to 21 in 2007.

    Why this 4-year-old e-mail has suddenly gained new popularity is anyone's guess.

    Matt Bartosik is the editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and a "between blogs" blogger.