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updated: 11/1/2011 4:26 PM

Year later, Des Plaines wants more data on red-light cameras

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  • Des Plaines police want to collect more data on red-light cameras at the intersection of Golf and Rand roads that have been in place for a year. Crashes at that intersection went up, though they were minor in nature, police say.

       Des Plaines police want to collect more data on red-light cameras at the intersection of Golf and Rand roads that have been in place for a year. Crashes at that intersection went up, though they were minor in nature, police say.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Looking west at Golf Road and Rand Road at the red-light camera intersection in Des Plaines.

       Looking west at Golf Road and Rand Road at the red-light camera intersection in Des Plaines.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Whether Des Plaines will expand its Automated Red Light Photo Enforcement Program beyond the one intersection where cameras have been operating for the past year is up in the air.

On Oct. 27, 2010, the city installed two mounted red-light cameras at the intersection of Golf and Rand roads, which had 16 accidents in 2008. The cameras face westbound and eastbound Golf Road and record violations 24/7.

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A review of the crash data for that intersection for the year shows accidents went up from four the year before with one reported injury to seven after the cameras were installed and no injuries reported.

"We were hopeful that it improved safety," Des Plaines Police Deputy Chief Angela Burton said. "That's our goal."

The accidents were less serious than in the previous year and more than half were weather-related crashes due to snowy or icy road conditions. Of those seven crashes, six were rear-end accidents, Burton said.

"We're really lucky there's not more accidents," Burton said. "You don't realize how many close calls there are."

Burton said the city needs more data before it can determine whether its one-year-old program has been successful.

"What might be helpful is to actually get a survey of the people who have been issued tickets to see if it has changed their driving behavior," Burton said. "If this can increase safety, change driver behavior, and increase awareness, then it's a success."

The city issued a total of 8,692 citations for red-light camera violations through Oct. 26, 2011. The cameras have generated $369,454 in revenue for the city to date, Des Plaines Finance Director Dorothy Wisniewski said.

The review also found even though the cameras flagged numerous driver infractions, police didn't issue citations in nearly half the cases.

Of the 4,425 citations approved by RedSpeed Illinois -- the city's red-light camera vendor -- for violations on eastbound Golf Road, Des Plaines police issued 2,514 tickets or 57 percent of cases.

Of the 10,736 citations approved by RedSpeed for violations on westbound Golf Road, police issued 6,200 tickets or 58 percent of cases.

Videos of potential violations are reviewed by a specially-trained Des Plaines police officer before notices are sent to the vehicle's registered owner.

Ninety-five percent of tickets issued are for right turn on red. The other 5 percent are for drivers disobeying the red light and driving straight through, Burton said.

Generally, the types of violations that get thrown out by police without a citation being issued are the close calls.

"You're never going to get a violation if you come to a complete stop," Burton said. "If someone had made a serious attempt at stopping but came just short of stopping completely, we don't issue those tickets. We could, but we just choose not to."

Police also take into consideration the time of day, traffic, road conditions, and the driver's maneuvering of the vehicle and whether it created an unsafe environment before issuing tickets, she added.

Violators can review the photos and video caught on camera at RedlightViolations.com and either pay a $100 fine or contest the ticket through the city's administrative hearing process. The violation does not affect a person's driving record or insurance rates.

Of the total number of citations issued, 530 violators contested by mail or in person and 92 were found not liable.

Burton said Des Plaines will check with neighboring communities to see how they have developed their red-light camera enforcement programs.

Some towns have removed red-light cameras entirely -- as in Schaumburg due to public outrage -- or disabled them temporarily as an experiment, such as in Elk Grove Village.

After eight months without a camera at the intersection of Devon Avenue and Busse Road, accidents shot up making it the No. 1 crash site in Elk Grove Village, officials said. Elk Grove Village quickly reinstated red-light cameras at that intersection.

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