Chicagoans could be fined for driving as little as 6 miles per hour over the speed limit starting Monday, as stricter speed camera enforcement rules are now in effect.
City officials have long contended the goal is to encourage safer driving and discourage speeding correlated with severe injuries and deaths, rather than issue more tickets.
Statistics provided by Chicago Department of Transportation showed that traffic fatalities were up 35% through the end of November 2020, with 120 fatalities. During the same time period in 2019, a total of 89 fatalities were reported.
In recent years, communities like Archer Heights have been impacted by more than one traffic-related death, and some leaders say the city is making the right decision.
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"Too many people that are driving right now think that a red light or a speed limit or a stop sign are suggested actions," said Thomas S. Baglia, president of the Archer Heights Civic Association. "Those things are there for our safety."
More than 52,000 warning notices were sent out in the first week of a grace period that started in January.
The notices were intended to get people used to the fact they’re going to receive $35 tickets for being caught by any of more than 100 speed cameras around the city going from 6 to 9 mph too fast, according to the city’s Finance Department.
Warnings will be issued to drivers up until March 1.
For traveling 6 to 9 miles per hour over the speed limit, drivers will receive a $35 speeding ticket. Those speeding 11 miles per hour over the limit will be fined $100.
Joe Schwieterman, a professor and transportation expert at DePaul University, said while there are some negative sides to such a policy, when it comes to safety, the benefits are pretty significant.
"The data shows people respond to these monetary incentives," Schwieterman said. "They're aware of them... the word spreads fast. They change their behavior."
CDOT spokesman Michael Claffey said that by Monday the city expected to have 140 cameras across Chicago tracking vehicle speeds. A full list and map of locations can be found here.
In an effort to tackle the city's estimated $1.2 billion shortfall last year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recommended the new fines as part of her 2021 budget package, which was approved by the Chicago City Council in late November.
A month earlier, Lightfoot said she was trying to explore as many options to combat the shortfall as possible, but admitted there would be some painful choices.
The city speed camera statute has allowed for the $35 tickets for cars going 6 to 9 mph over the limit since former Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the system near parks and schools in 2013. The city has never enforced it, however, until now.