Red-light camera companies are proliferating across Illinois and the U.S. and that has meant problems for municipalities who don't check the fine print when signing a contact, a report finds.
About half the states in the U.S. allow red-light cameras, a study by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group released Thursday found.
Nearly 700 local governments use the devices to catch red-light infractions and 92 have contracts for speed cameras, Illinois PIRG reported. In Illinois, more than 80 towns deploy the red-light cameras.
Illinois PIRG researchers cited instances in California and Florida where they say the public was ill-served by government agreements with camera vendors. These include:
• Contracts with camera companies that require towns to issue citations for all right-turn violations.
• Agreements that make it difficult for municipalities to pull the plug on camera programs early in the contract.
• Contracts that leave an opening for vendors to financially penalize towns if the yellow-light timing is altered.
The Daily Herald in 2009 studied the growth spurt in traffic surveillance cameras across the suburbs. The vast majority of tickets stemmed from right turns on red lights -- a violation considered to be the least hazardous of traffic signal infractions, the investigation found.
Illinois PIRG leaders caution that legislation pending in the state legislature to allow speed cameras in Chicago could create more headaches for drivers.
Illinois PIRG Field Director Celeste Meiffren acknowledged Illinois and Chicago have done a "decent job" of protecting the public when contacts with camera vendors are signed. But it's important to ensure the state doesn't fall into traps other jurisdictions have if the speed camera proposal becomes law, she said.