Speed cameras proposed in Illinois

State legislation would let 8 counties use automated enforcement
WGN-AM's Williams talks about cameras with Sen. Link

By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune reporter
March 26, 2009

If you're a driver who hates cameras that ticket you for running red lights, you won't be revved up to support the next version of "cops in a box" possibly coming to Illinois.

Automated enforcement of speed limits would be allowed in the Chicago region and other areas under a proposed state law.

The move is part of a bill that would permit some counties and municipalities to mail speeding tickets of up to $100 for drivers caught going too fast by unmanned, stationary radar cameras positioned alongside roadways.

"I cannot feel sorry for those people caught by camera, because they are breaking the law," said state Sen. Terry Link (D- Waukegan), a sponsor of the legislation, which could move to a Senate vote next week. If approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, the law would take effect Jan. 1.

"If people start to slow down, they wouldn't have to worry about the fines," Link said.

More than 500 speed-related traffic deaths occurred in Illinois in 2007, according to state records. Nationally, about 13,000 people died that year in accidents where speeding was the cause or a contributing factor, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Under the proposed Illinois law, speeding tickets issued by automated surveillance would be treated as non-moving offenses, like parking tickets and red-light violations, and convictions or guilty pleas would not go on drivers' records, officials said.

Pictures of the offending license plate would be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. The driver and passengers would not be photographed.

Speed cameras would be permitted on roads in eight counties that have a history of speed-related accidents, where insufficient police manpower exists to enforce speed limits and where on-site enforcement is "inherently difficult."

The counties are Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will.

In addition to permitting municipalities and counties to install automated speed-enforcement cameras, the legislation would lift a ban on recorded images for speed enforcement unless a police officer is present, officials said.

The bill makes no mention of signs that tell drivers how fast they are going. But the Illinois State Police's roving photo-enforcement vans can operate only with the electronic "Your Speed Is " sign, under the law written for the ISP vans.

The measure is aimed at reducing accidents and fatalities and it is not an attempt to increase revenue, said Link and state Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago), the bill's sponsors.

The legislation is supported by the City of Chicago, Secretary of State Jesse White, law enforcement groups and other groups.

"The reason people speed is because they can," said John Ulczycki, vice president for research at the National Safety Council. "When people perceive that a law is not being enforced, speeding increases"

In Arizona, where stationary speed-enforcement cameras are deployed on a broad scale, speeding on highways has been cut by 9 m.p.h. on average, according to the state. Speed-related crashes along U.S. Highway 101 near Scottsdale have decreased 44 percent since the cameras were installed last year, officials said.

Last year, Rod Blagojevich, then governor, announced a plan to put speed cameras on interstates in Illinois. He said the plan could raise $50 million a year and allow the state to hire hundreds of state troopers.