System's Politicalsupport Fading Lawmakers Calling for Tighter Rules

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

System's Politicalsupport Fading Lawmakers Calling for Tighter Rules


Byline: Joseph Ryan and John Patterson jryan@dailyherald.com jopatterson@dailyherald.com

Red-light cameras were shepherded into the suburbs several years ago with wide political support.

That backing is evaporating.

Numerous suburban lawmakers are now criticizing the red-light camera system in the wake of a Daily Herald investigative series that sparked questions about how and why cameras are being used. Lawmakers now are considering tighter regulations and better oversight, and some are even arguing for the outright elimination of the aggressive enforcement.

"I hate them. I absolutely hate them," said state Rep. Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican who voted for the original red-light camera legislation back in 2006. "It is strictly a moneymaking mechanism. I dont believe it goes to public safety."

The Daily Herald series revealed how most $100 red-light camera tickets go to drivers making a right turn on red without coming to a complete stop, a practice experts say is often not a significant safety concern even though it is against the law. The series also revealed how some cameras are going up at intersections where few crashes occur because of running red lights, raising questions about whether theyre being used for

safety or revenue.

Meanwhile, the verdict is not yet in on whether the cameras are making roads safer, particularly because of where the cameras are being used and the type of common driving behavior they are profiting from.

State Rep. Paul Froehlich, a Schaumburg Democrat who voted for red-light cameras, says he will support tighter regulation to eliminate public concern that the cameras are misused to make money.

"This tends to reinforce the public perception that these guys are trying to haul in as much cash as they can," Froehlich said. "That undercuts public support, and if you lose that, then these things could be gone entirely."

Most lawmakers asked about the Daily Heralds findings said they still support the concept of using cameras to make intersections safer, but they want better oversight to ensure the enforcement of them makes intersections safer.

"Im generally supportive of the red-light cameras," said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat who supported the original legislation. "But I think we do need to rethink what we are doing with these things."

For now it remains unclear what lawmakers will propose as a solution, whether it be tougher standards written into law or giving a state agency authority over the installation of all cameras. …

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