‘Countdown clocks’ a Band-Aid for Chicago’s failed red-light camera program

Two Chicago aldermen are calling for changes to the city’s disgraced red-light camera program.

Aldermen Tom Tunney and Anthony Beale want to require “countdown clocks” to alert drivers how much time is left before stoplights turn red, according to the Chicago Tribune. Tunney and Beale have also proposed mandating minimum yellow-light lengths of 3.2 seconds, as well as City Council approval for any new red-light cameras. Before any new cameras could be approved, “city officials would need to produce traffic studies estimating the safety impact of the cameras at intersections where they want to put them.”

It’s a good thing that Tunney and Beale are calling for reforms to the city’s notoriously corrupt and ineffectual red-light camera program – requiring officials to prove the “need” for spending makes sense.

It’ll be hard to prove there is a reason to add more cameras throughout the city, however. In fact, a Chicago Tribune investigation proved the city’s red-light program provided few safety benefits at all. The city’s red-light cameras caused a “22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries” according to the Tribune’s research, which also debunked Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim that the program is responsible for a “47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or ‘T-bone,’ crashes.”

One of the most damning conclusions in the report is that “there is no safety benefit from cameras installed at intersections where there have been few crashes with injuries.”

What the red-light cameras have provided for the city, however, is $500 million in $100 tickets as of December 2014.

Are drivers supposed to be excited about the prospect of expensive new technology being added to a program that has failed to deliver added safety?

The public doesn’t want the program. It’s not making streets any safer. It’s costing the city millions.

Throwing more money down the drain for fancy equipment won’t change the fact that Chicago’s red-light camera program is a sinking ship.

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