Illinois: Schaumburg Cancels Red Light Camera Contract
Public pressure has forced Schaumburg, Illinois to drop its controversial red light camera program. Village trustees are expected tomorrow to finalize the cancellation of a contract with Redspeed, the private company which has been responsible for issuing traffic citations for the village since November 2008. On July 1, the village manager had sent a preliminary cancellation notice to the British firm. The move comes as public awareness grows that automated ticketing profit is based almost entirely on citing vehicle owners for the type of hair-splitting technical violations that are not responsible for causing accidents. “Staff recommends that the Public Safety Committee recommend to the Village Board that the contract with Redspeed be terminated,” Police Chief Brian Howerton wrote in a memo last month.
The village has one traffic camera stationed at the intersection of Meacham and Woodfield Roads. It generated 10,000 tickets worth $1 million in less than three months. Yet instead of reducing the number of drivers “running red lights” the camera almost exclusively ticketed the owners of vehicles making right-hand turns into the Woodfield Mall. Complaints from significant area businesses and outraged shoppers forced the village to put a halt to automated right turn ticketing in February. As a result, the UK company operating the program lost interest in running the camera because it did not make financial sense to continue.
“In the May monthly report from Redspeed, we received no straight through violations for either approach,” Howerton explained. “Consequently, the only citations issued during the entire month were for left turn violations (14).”
In 2008, the intersection had seen twenty-six accidents, none of which were related to signal violations or red light running. With the camera active in the first six months of 2009, there were twelve accidents, at least two of which were rear end collisions in the right-turn lane and one that may have involved red light running. Overall, only 1.9 percent of accidents in Schaumburg last year were in any way related to intersection traffic signals.
“Analysis indicates that there has been no significant change in signal-related crashes between pre and post system deployment,” Howerton concluded.
This weekend, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Daily Herald each published major stories that found Schaumburg’s tactics have been copied by sixteen Chicago suburbs. In these locations, between 64 and 100 percent of red light camera tickets were issued for so-called right turn on red violations. These “violations” are given to vehicles that did stop before turning, but not necessarily at the arbitrary line designated by the municipality. They also include citations given to cars that stopped forward motion, but did not wait an arbitrary three seconds before resuming.
According to US Department of Transportation data, right-turn on red collisions are so rare that the average motorist could drive a billion miles before being involved in one ( view study). The village memo on the program’s cancellation is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.
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