Illinois: Schaumburg Cancels Red Light Camera Contract

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

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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  • BrianCostin BrianCostin on Jul 13, 2009

    Before we congratulate Mayor Larson and the Village Board for reversing their positions we should take a look back and see if this mess could have been entirely avoided in the first place. The following statements are from Red Light Camera Debate at the Village Board Meeting on September 23rd, 2008 which was prior to the implementation of the Red Light Cameras. The Schaumburg Freedom Coalition opposes red light cameras for safety, economic, and civil liberty grounds. Statement by Brian Costin

    "Brian Costin presented several studies that found that red light cameras actually increase the amount of traffic accidents and also fatalities in some cases. These findings are contrary to what is generally accepted which is that the red light cameras reduce traffic accidents, injuries, property damage, and fatalities. Mr. Costin read several case studies that justified his opinion. Mr. Costin submitted the studies to the Village Board and recommended to the Board that they do not proceed with red light cameras in Schaumburg on the basis that it is a public safety issue. Mr. Costin summarized that there are a lot of signs that are saying that red light cameras make intersections more dangerous, cause more injuries, and cause more property damage." Mayor Larson’s Response "President Larson asked how he explained the results in Elk Grove Village. Craig Johnson, Mayor of Elk Grove was quoted in the Daily Herald that after installation of red light cameras there were a number of intersections that saw a reduction in collisions." Mayor Larson refused to acknowledge the significance of the research of respected institutions such as Virginia Department of Transportation, University of South Florida, The Washington Post, North Carolina A&T University, Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Australian Road Research Board, and Monash University (Australia). I wonder if Mayor Larson even glanced at the studies we provided him with before rushing through with the red-light cameras. The 9 studies presented at the Village Board Meeting showed results from thousands of red-light camera intersections all over the United States & the world for well over a decade. How can a Mayor be so shortsighted to ignore overwhelming mounds of scientific evidence from so many respected organizations, only to selectively take evidence from a small handful of intersections that had only been operating for a few months? Simply, Mayor Larson did not do his due diligence.
  • Sundog Sundog on Jul 13, 2009

    "The truth is people don’t charge through red lights, almost all violators see a yellow and decided not to slam on the brakes for the benefit of the driver behind." Maybe where you live. ;) Where I drive, cars that are usually speeding already just continue on through, regardless of who's behind them. Unfortunately, it appears most communities that implement these red light cameras do so as fee generators, not to ticket serious offenders or change driving habits. In Indianapolis, there are always 15-20 intersections that have the most accidents annually. Now a system with cameras for each lane, like going under an Ipass booth, would be able to distinguish types of violations. That, combined with blatant signage (like a blinking sign warning of cameras) could help, if the intent was traffic management, not plugging budget holes. If you rear end someone who slams on their brakes to stop for a red light you were doing 2 things wrong...following too closely, and not watching the road ahead.