Running the Red

High-tech cameras know the law better than people do, officials say

Some people will be receiving new cameras as gifts this holiday season. The city of Chicago is getting new cameras also. Seven more intersections will be equipped with red light cameras this month, bringing the total to 140 across the city.

Many drivers complain that the cameras are nothing more than motion detectors that don’t give motorists a fair chance. But officials explain that the red-light law enforcers are much more advanced than that, and they may even know the law better than some humans do.

"The technology used is very accurate," John Bills, assistant director of the city’s Office of Emergency Communications, told the Sun-Times.

For example, if a left-turning car is already past the white "stop line" painted on the ground, the car can legally complete its left turn after the light turns red. The red light camera will not activate, according to Bills.

However, if a driver crosses that "stop line" at a red light, the camera issues a $100 ticket.

Bills reminds motorists that they must come to a complete stop before making a right-hand turn. Intersection cameras can detect if a car coasts right through.

The cameras also make allowances for parades, emergency vehicles, and funeral processions.

And while some drivers may not care for them, the cameras may be responsible for safer streets. According to the city, accidents are down 30 percent at electronically monitored intersections.

A partial list of red light camera locations is available at

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