Put the brakes on Chicago’s red-light camera program

Chicago needs money. After all, the city has more than $60 billion in debt.

And Chicago’s red-light camera program has generated more than $500 million in revenue for the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Today, Chicago has the largest red-light camera program in the U.S., and rakes in a cool $100 every time a driver is cited.

But the program’s effectiveness is being called into question. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that 16,000 red-light camera tickets are eligible for review.

Unfortunately, aside from the thousands of questionably issued tickets, the mayor has yet to announce a deeper review of the red-light camera program’s effectiveness.

Though the red-light camera program has been in place for years, no comprehensive performance research exists.

Red-light camera proponents claim that the cameras make roads safer – but research on the subject provides mixed results, at best.

Many studies show that red-light cameras actually decrease intersection safety.

For example, the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University prepared a study for the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2004 that reviewed 303 intersections over a 57-month period (the study also provided a “criticism of the simplistic methods and small data sets used in many studies of red-light cameras”).

Researchers said the results of their study “do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.”

Chicagoans are fed up with a program riddled with expensive glitches that have proven costly for drivers. Protestors gathered this weekend at 119th and Halsted streets to protest the program and lobby for its removal.

Just because something is pitched as a “public safety measure” doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. Chicago’s $500 million in revenues certainly incentivizes aldermen to keep around the city’s red-light camera program; but the recent failures of the system, combined with the lack of any substantive proof that red-light cameras are doing anything to promote safer roadways for Chicagoans, should prove to the mayor and City Council that it’s time to rethink the country’s largest red-light camera program.

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