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posted: 5/5/2010 12:01 AM

Kane Co. red-light camera debate continues

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Kane County's decision on the future of red-light cameras may hinge on what numbers presented during a series of public hearings they give the most weight to.

Aurora added its statistics of a positive experience in using the cameras to reduce accidents at Tuesday night's final public hearing on the cameras in Sugar Grove.

But a man who's testified in legislative hearings and said he had years of experience of as a traffic engineer quoted from a series of studies that show the cameras don't reduce accidents.

In fact, Matt Gauntt said, studies in other states showed the cameras actually increase the number of rear-end collisions.

Gauntt said Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez was the one speaking "nonsense" last week when Perez questioned if a speaker was "out of his mind" after urging Kane County to ban red-light cameras.

Perez clarified his comment from last week by saying he was specifically reacting to a statement about cars running red lights not causing accidents when he lashed out at the speaker.

Perez and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns reiterated their support for the cameras Tuesday night on the grounds that the cameras reduce accidents.

Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas joined them with statistics showing accidents were down 43 percent at intersections with red-light cameras in his city.

But Gauntt said all those numbers claiming accident reduction are simply not showing what local officials think they are. He quoted from a series of studies in states on the east coast that showed "the use of red-light cameras increase accidents, not decrease them."

Gauntt said the idea that cameras reduce accidents is spurious, most likely stemming from a general decrease in accidents in the community even at intersections without the red light cameras.

Gauntt said the county would be better off spending money on improved paving, better striping of intersections and better traffic signals if it truly wants to reduce accidents.

After the meeting, Perez said he understands people have strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

"Some people believe in statistics, but I work with human life," Perez said of his real-world experience at accident scenes. He is still supportive of the county adding cameras at two county-operated intersections. Perez presented that idea along with representatives from the Lombard-based red-light camera company RedSpeed many months ago.

The company is a donor to Perez' campaign fund. It gave Perez $900 last July under the alias Current Technologies, Inc.

The debate on the cameras will remain open to the public for about another week as the county is still accepting written and e-mail comments on the issue before the full county board takes up the discussion on continuing to issue permits for the cameras or banning them.