Editorial: Don't let legislation to curb red-light camera use die on the vine

  • Legislation to limit red-light cameras to home-rule communities in suburban counties passed the House and awaits the Senate in mid-November.

    Legislation to limit red-light cameras to home-rule communities in suburban counties passed the House and awaits the Senate in mid-November. Daily Herald File, 2009

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted10/16/2020 1:00 AM

State Rep. David McSweeney has been railing against red-light traffic cameras almost as long as he has been in the General Assembly.

The Barrington Hills Republican has sought a statewide study of the efficacy of the devices in reducing crashes, pushed to outlaw them in non-home rule communities and even sought a statewide ban.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This year, the House passed his bill that would ban the cameras in non-home rule communities. Now, the legislation awaits Senate action. As we head toward the fall veto session in mid-November, it is our hope that his efforts get a good hearing. It is, after all, McSweeney's last hurrah. He chose not to run for reelection.

We've weighed in before on this topic. Too often, red-light cameras and the $100 tickets they produce are promoted with a wink as a way to force drivers to stop completely at intersections to avoid collisions.

No doubt there are cases in which they do, but there is evidence to the contrary.

What they unquestionably do is catch people not making a full stop before turning right on a red light. In fewer cases, they catch people blasting through an intersection.

We get it. People should stop, look both ways and then turn, or not use a yellow light as an invitation to stomp on the accelerator.

But we've seen evidence that some municipalities that employ the cameras do so just to make money. Several years ago, the small village of Lakemoor relied on red-light cameras for more than 40% of the village's revenue, and the Illinois Department of Transportation statistics showed it didn't put a dent in crashes in the intersections where cameras were posted.

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We agree with McSweeney that the overarching appeal of these devices is that they help pay the bills.

The industry also has been shown to be a source of corruption -- something Illinois would do well to eliminate.

State law allows red-light cameras in eight counties -- Cook, Kane, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will, Madison and St. Clair. Some 98 communities use them on state roads, plus Chicago, IDOT spokeswoman Maria Castaneda told our Elena Ferrarin. More use them on local roads, though IDOT doesn't keep that data, Castaneda said.

Palatine is in the process of extending its red-light camera program, considering different vendors.

Rolling Meadows and Rosemont extended their contracts in 2019.

The law as written would not apply to Palatine, which has home rule.

Deer Park, Algonquin, St. Charles and Schaumburg have removed cameras over the years, noting crash data did not change appreciably while the cameras were in operation.

It would be a shame if the Senate let this worthwhile legislation die on the vine.

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