Cameras to catch speeders deserve closer look By the Pantagraph Editorial Board Advertisement When Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently suggested using cameras to catch speeders on the state's highways, his idea was dismissed with little more than a shrug. Camera enforcement of speed laws can't be done in Illinois without legislative action and no one in the General Assembly appears eager to propose such a change. However, the idea deserves a closer look. The suggestion that such cameras are the all-seeing Big Brother of George Orwell's "1984" is far fetched. No one would be constantly monitoring these cameras to decide who is traveling where. The speed-enforcement cameras - also called photo radar systems - generally are set to be activated and record only when a vehicle exceeds a certain speed, such as 11 mph over the posted limit. American have freedom to travel under our system of government - but they don't have the freedom to travel at 10, 15 or 20 mph over the speed limit without consequences. Speed-enforcement cameras are already used in construction zones in Illinois. Expanding that program to other parts of the interstate system where speeding is a problem is a step toward greater safety. Police can't be everywhere. Using this technology is an unobtrusive way to improve enforcement. On a congested urban expressway, photo enforcement could even be safer than trying to track down and pull over a violator in heavy traffic. Anyone who has done much traveling in Illinois knows there are certain areas in which speed limits are ignored by many - if not the majority - of motorists. In such situations, other drivers tend to speed up and "go with the flow" as a matter of self-preservation, even if they might prefer to go slower. Speed enforcement cameras could help bring everyone closer to the speed limit. Signs should be placed warning motorists that speed-enforcement cameras are in use. This would serve as a deterrent to speeders - and make it more clear that promoting safety has priority over generating revenue. A study released in January by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed a reduction in speeding on an 8-mile corridor of an urban Arizona highway where speed-enforcement cameras were installed. Before the cameras were activated, about 15 percent of vehicles were driving at least 75 mph in the 65 mph zone on that section of highway. After the highly publicized cameras were activated, only 1 percent to 2 percent of motorists traveled 10 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. Although the Arizona researchers did not study accident data, studies in Europe - where such cameras have been used more extensively - have concluded crashes are reduced where the cameras are in use. Illinois officials should give serious consideration to supplementing police patrols with speed-enforcement cameras in areas where they can be most effective.