Transportation advocates in Chicago hope to put the brakes on red light camera opposition.
Saying that victims of traffic crashes are being forgotten in the debate over traffic safety and red light cameras, the Active Transportation Alliance called on officials to assess photo enforcement and other safety strategies in the city by implementing a Chicago version of the “Vision Zero” strategy.
The strategy is an international traffic safety movement that uses surveillance cameras and photo enforcement to improve traffic safety. The strategy is guided by the idea that no loss of life on streets is acceptable and photo enforcement is a tool that helps prevent such accidents.
“The real victims in this debate are being forgotten,” Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said in a statement. “The real victims are the nearly 21,000 people significantly injured or killed in traffic crashes each year in Chicago.”
Chicago advocates expressed concerns that the debate about red light cameras “could lead to the loss of an important traffic safety tool.” They noted there are not enough police officers to combat dangerous driving everywhere, but that photo enforcement can bridge the gap by essentially “multiplying the power of the police to enforce the law.”
They also noted the cameras aren’t the only option, citing public awareness, education programs, policy changes, and improvements to traffic engineering and street design.
“Some of the criticism is justified and some is off base, but enforcing traffic laws, whether with cameras or police officers, prevents injuries and save lives when done properly,” said Burke. “Rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, the city should convene an independent group to determine how to improve the program and which cameras should stay or go.”
In 2013, more than 1,100 crashes caused by red light violations killed six people and caused significant injuries for more than 700 people, according to Active Trans.
The red light cameras are an area of debate for the upcoming mayoral runoff election.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he plans to keep the red light cameras and continue evaluating their impacts at vital intersections, while Jesus “Chuy” Garcia plans to rid the city of the controversial cameras.
“Red light violations may seem trivial to violators, but the safety consequences are real,” said traffic safety expert Richard Rettting, who led studies on red light cameras at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). “The research is conclusive: red light cameras are effective at reducing crashes that result in serious injuries and fatalities.”
Advocates called on elected officials to create a taskforce that examines which safety strategies work best to reduce traffic injuries and deaths, including evaluating the safety impact of individual red light camera locations.