Red light camera firm rejects lower fines
July 15, 2009 5:44 PM | No Comments
Red light camera operator Redspeed-Illinois today rejected a plan by west suburban River Forest to set a lower than usual fine for drivers caught on camera making illegal right turns on red.
On Monday, the River Forest village board voted conditionally to hire RedSpeed to install two traffic cameras on Harlem Avenue. But board members also said they wanted to limit right turn-related fines to $50, half the usual amount for tickets generated by red light cameras.
The unusual demand came in the wake of a Tribune series that found that right-turn-on red violations comprised the vast majority of red light camera tickets even though traffic safety experts say such infractions rarely result in serious damage or injury.
Camera companies like RedSpeed contend the devices are a deterrent to accidents and promote safety, but critics contend they are little more than a money making gimmick for camera vendors and cash-strapped municipalities.
In an e-mail to River Forest officials today, RedSpeed lawyer Martin Korey said his firm would not agree to administer a two-tiered fine structure that would charge more to drivers who blow straight through red lights---a maneuver more likely to result in a serious accident.
"RedSpeed will not approve the $50.00 per violation for right turn on red violations and $100.00 per violation for running a red light," Korey said. "In our opinion, this would be an invitation to a lawsuit based upon an equal protection violation under the Illinois Constitution. In effect, the village
would be penalizing one violator $50.00 and another violator $100.00 for the same violation."
Before Monday's vote, RedSpeed salesman Michael Lebert cautioned River Forest trustees against trying to lower the fine, noting that the firm runs traffic cameras in more than 50 suburbs and all of them levy the same $100 fine on every ticket issued. Lebert said that reducing some fines for one suburb could cause administrative headaches for RedSpeed and lead to billing errors.
River Forest board member Steve Hoke, sponsor of the discount fine idea, said he doubted it would create a legal bind for the village. "I want to see who is going to sue us because we charged them $50 instead of $100," Hoke said.
John Rigas, the village president, said he warned fellow trustees that Hoke's proposal could create "administrative risk" for RedSpeed. "I'm in the software business and when everyone else does something one way and you do it different, it can create problems."
Rigas said he would convene a special board meeting Monday to discuss how to respond to RedSpeed. RedSpeed is an especially sensitive issue in River Forest because one of town's newly elected board members, Catherine Adduci, is the wife of Redspeed lobbyist Al Ronan.
Adduci skipped Monday's board meeting during which the Redspeed contract was a prominent agenda item.