Red-light tickets from blizzard forgiven? Maybe

  • GILBERT R. BOUCHER II/gboucher@dailyherald.com  A traffic signal is covered in snow making it difficult to see the stop light at Milwaukee Ave. and Wolf Rd. in Wheeling as heavy snow blanketed the Cook County suburbs overnight causing trees to sag and break and making streets difficult to navigate.

    GILBERT R. BOUCHER II/gboucher@dailyherald.com A traffic signal is covered in snow making it difficult to see the stop light at Milwaukee Ave. and Wolf Rd. in Wheeling as heavy snow blanketed the Cook County suburbs overnight causing trees to sag and break and making streets difficult to navigate.

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 2/10/2011 6:40 AM

While most drivers unlucky enough to have had to drive through the during the Blizzard of 2011 will be let off the hook for any slips through a red light, at least two suburban police departments are not budging.

"We are not giving amnesty," said Libertyville Police Lt. Scott Fabbri. "We'll continue reviewing them as we have since Day One."

 

Elk Grove Village police said they are also sticking to their red-light camera policy for offenses that occurred Feb. 1 and 2 when 20 inches of snow was dumped on some parts of the Chicago area.

Many Northwest and Western suburbs have decided to give drivers more leeway than usual, given the treacherous conditions. State law requires all tickets to be reviewed by police before being sent to the owner of the vehicle, so human judgment can be used.

"We decided to give drivers the benefit of the doubt once the snow started falling like mad on Tuesday and the street markings likely became hidden," said Aurora Police Sgt. Scott Mantzke. "And by Wednesday afternoon most people weren't driving anyway and the streets were clear enough that those who were could see the markings."

Numerous suburbs including Rosemont have decided to mirror Chicago's policy, which will not ticket red-light camera violations recorded between 6:30 p.m. Feb 1 through 3 p.m. Feb 2.

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"We've already sent a memo to Red Speed and told them not to issue any tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday," said Wheeling Deputy Chief John Teevans.

The blizzard won't affect policy in the city of Rolling Meadows, where they already give a break to motorists who at least try to stop.

"We've always been very lenient," said Rolling Meadows Police Chief Dave Scanlan. "It's about safety. The money that comes in we use to pay for the program. We don't get a whole lot of complaints."

Other suburbs including Naperville have decided to ease their policy, not because of the difficulty of driving conditions, but because the cameras had trouble seeing vehicles in the whiteout conditions.

"We do not make allowances for weather because poor weather conditions are when we're most likely to see drivers making poor choices and driving too fast for conditions," said Naperville Sgt. Lee Martin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Martin said that poor visibility prevented cameras from taking good photos.

"We're assuming it was a total whiteout, and the cameras didn't pick anything up," said Des Plaines Police Cmdr. Tim Veit. Cameras in Des Plaines did not record one violation from about 3 p.m. Feb 1 to about 10 a.m. Feb. 2.

Wood Dale's Trax Guard camera system, which in 2009 filmed an average of 2.6 vehicles a day driving under or around rail crossing gates, also was knocked out of service.

"Poor visibility made it difficult to accurately note the violations," Deputy Chief Greg Vest said. The department plans on making individual decisions on each violation, he said.

"... It's hard to see much of anything when the snow was falling so fast," Vest said.

The human element when enforcing tickets was stressed by all police departments. Libertyville recorded four violations throughout the blizzard, and although police there said they won't alter policy, that doesn't necessarily mean all tickets generated during the storm will be sent.

"We have to use common sense," Libertyville's Fabbri said.