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posted: 3/13/2010 12:01 AM

Red-light camera vote coming next week

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By Timothy Magaw

SPRINGFIELD - Red-light cameras won't be such sticklers on where drivers stop while turning right - as long as they stop, but little else will change in the status-quo, under a compromise reform proposal introduced Friday.

Senate President John Cullerton's red-light camera proposal was released after closed-door meetings to hash out a compromise with critics, supporters and company lobbyists Thursday. Meanwhile, it appears a move by one suburban lawmaker to abolish the scores of cameras across the suburbs and Chicago is gaining little steam.

The largest reform effort in the compromise introduced Friday gives drivers more leeway at intersections, preventing authorities from ticketing motorists who stop beyond the white line or cross walk. Still, motorists could receive the $100 tickets for making rolling right turns, a common driving maneuver that experts say is far less dangerous than the straight-through violations used to sell cameras to the public.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval, the chairman of the transportation committee who helped broker the compromise, said the key issue of cameras driving most of their profits from ticketing rolling right turns wasn't even part of the backroom negotiations.

"There was no discussion on that. It wasn't an issue brought up by anybody - Democrat or Republican," said Sandoval, a Cicero Democrat.

State Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican pushing for a complete repeal of the cameras, was planning on reading the proposal this weekend but said the "wording of the legislation is going to be key" in whether he supports it.

Meanwhile, Cullerton's proposal would require camera companies and municipalities to implement several practices that are already commonplace.

For example, the legislation requires police officers to review the tickets in the collar counties, while Chicago and suburban Cook County operations could rely on trained technicians to review the violations. Also under the measure, motorists would be able to review citations online and they would not have to pay a fee to appeal the violations.

In those cases, the Daily Herald found in an investigation of red-light cameras that the vast majority of tickets can be viewed online, there are rarely fees for appeals and that most suburban police departments review tickets before they are issued already.

The legislation also would require yellow traffic lights on roads with red-light cameras to conform to state guidelines, a move to ensure the timing of lights isn't changed to increase violations. Still, the majority of suburban red-light cameras are on state roads, which already fall under the guidelines.

State Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican, said he realizes some of the law changes are already being practiced.

"We want to make sure those things are codified in law to be consistent," Millner said. He defended the presence of industry lobbyists at the closed-door meeting, saying they were there to answer questions.

At the same time, the legislation does nothing to address two central issues found in the Herald's investigation: that many cameras are going up in the suburbs at intersections with little history of red-light related collisions and that it is nearly impossible for motorists to tell if they have tickets that could have been lost in the mail or sent to the wrong address.

The legislation is slated a committee hearing Monday in Springfield.