Here's my story:
I drive to and from work on a stretch of Illinois tollway that is under construction and will be for about two more years. The speed limit when construction workers are present is 45 mph. The workers are present just about 24 hours a day except on holidays...so the speed limit is 45 pretty much all the time.
Here's one of the signs that went up a few weeks ago and caused the beginning of my journey:
I drive approx 20 miles each way to and from work (40 miles roundtrip) on this stretch of Illinois tollway (94/294 from the Wisconsin border to O'hare Airport). I noticed these rather bland signs and then I started seeing hidden cameras in my imagination everywhere I looked! What are those aluminum poles with a box (looks like a camera to me!) halfway up and two solar panels on top? They're everywhere! Big Brother is watching me!
I did a bit of research on the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police websites. I asked some questions here on this website.
I began to get a much clearer picture of what will be going on.
There are two Speed Trailers (one facing n/b and one facing s/b) on 94, north of the 294 split (the "spur") that display vehicle's speed and then flash "SLOW DOWN" if they're over 45 mph.
Apparently the ISP will be using a van equipped with photo radar and deploying it on the side of the road at some point after the Speed Trailers. The idea is that a driver gets a warning from the Speed Trailer and then the photo radar van nabs both a front photo (showing the driver) and a rear photo (showing the license plate) if the vehicle does not slow down.
Here's the van (from a picture posted previously on this site):
Let me say this. I am a police officer. I have been for over 20 years. I do not enjoy writing speeding tickets. Not many of my fellow officers do. If we were left to our own devices, we would enforce the traffic laws that we find dangerous or offend our own sense of a "level of violation." By that I mean really, really fast speeds.
I have written many speeding tickets. But I don't write alot compared to other violations. I am a "car guy." I always have been, I got it from my dad who was a car guy. I own two Mustangs. They are not daily drivers. I read all the car magazines. I think I'm "up" on most of the car world. This photo radar is new to me though.
I was taught that the driver of a vehicle is responsible for his or her actions and for the actual vehicle they are driving. That is how the law was written and has been enforced for years. If a person borrows a friend's car and it has a headlamp out, or illegally tinted windows, or no license plate light, or a cracked windshield, etc...it is the driver's responsibility to be sure the vehicle is in compliance with the Vehicle Code before they drive it. If a police officer writes a ticket for this type of equipment violation, the citation goes to the driver, not the owner.
The only time a vehicle's owner gets a ticket is if the car is parked and unattended. Since there is no one in it, then the only way to ticket it, is to ticket the registered owner. I remember my dad being angry at my sister when he received notices from her out-of-state college town of unpaid parking violations because her car was registered in our dad's name.
But this photo radar and red light camera stuff flies in the face of the way the law has always been written and interpreted. These photo violations are sent to the registered owners and it is up to them to take care of the ticket, even when they were not the driver of the car when the violation took place. I don't like that one bit at all.
All of my family's vehicles register to me. If my wife or daughter commit a violation, I'm going to get the ticket. Not fun at all.
One more point. I've never seen this discussed before. This is only for Illinois, but I believe it is the same or very similar in all the other states. A speeding ticket is under the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) 625 ILCS 5/11-601(b). That's speeding. Driving 50 in a 35 zone gets you a ticket for 11-601(b).
Insurance companies and the Department of Transportation (IDOT here in Illinois) say that speeding is a major cause of accidents (whoops, "crashes"...we don't call them accidents anymore). The proof of that is all the tickets for accidents that fall under "speeding." Hmmmmm.
In 20 years, I have never issued a ticket for speeding while investigating a crash. Never. I have only heard of one incident where a guy got a ticket for speeding because of a crash. He was in a Corvette and going about 95 in a 35 zone. A lady pulled out in front of him. She said, "I saw him way back there and thought I had plenty of time to pull out (if he had been only going 35, she would have had plenty of time indeed). But he came flying up the road and hit me." Truth be told, no matter his speed, she did not yield to his car which had the right of way on the through road while she had a stop sign before she pulled out. But we know that he was truly at fault. Because he was speeding. Only time I ever saw it.
Now some crashes are bad because of the addition of speed. But there is usually another factor involved. Improper lane use, failure to yield right of way, intoxication, etc. But speed is rarely the "cause" of an accident (oops, I mean crash).
So why do the insurance companies and IDOT claim speed is the cause? Because I've written more tickets for 11-601(a) than any other over the years. Notice that I said (a) and not (b). The little "a" is for "Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident." They haven't bothered to change the language over to "crash" in the IVC yet....
When someone rear ends another car in Illinois, the catch all ticket is 11-601(a). It does not mean that the driver of Vehicle #1 was speeding. Driver #1 could have been going 5 mph approaching a stoplight and glanced over at something and then tapped the car in front of them. That ticket is Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.
See how the insurance companies and IDOT call it speeding when it really isn't? Tricky.
People blowing stop signs and accelerating through yellow signals to make a traffic light...now those violations cause crashes! I stopped a guy in a brand new Porsche at 2:30 in the morning for 75 mph in a 25 mph zone. It was a newly paved, wide road through the middle of our town. He was in his pajamas. He knew he was getting a ticket. 50 over? Yeah that would be a near record for me back when I was new and got him on radar. I asked him what he was doing in his pj's? He said he just bought the car (yep, he had) and he wanted to see how it drove at speed so he figured he would do it when it was most safe. At the wee hours of the night. I gave him his license back and told him to enjoy. He was flabbergasted. He asked me why I was giving him a break. I said, "You're driving a high performance car with excellent handling, tires and brakes. You're out here at 2:30 am. You're more safe at 75 mph than some idiot in a beater Corolla going just 15 over with 12" tires and a mini spare on one wheel."
So back to the photo radar. I hope you understand why I don't like it.
A mailed ticket for speeding in a construction zone here in Illinois is a mandatory court appearance and a $375 fine. If you get the ticket in Cook County (Crook County) then there is an additional $135 fee tacked on. So a first offense is $510!!!!! A second offense is $1,000 (plus add in the $135 if you were in Cook County so that's $1,135) and a 90 day suspension of the registered owner's driver's license. Wow!
I spoke with an Illinois State Trooper at court the other day while we were both waiting around. He said there are three vans in Illinois. Only one will be deployed in northern Illinois. Only six Troopers are trained and authorized to operate the cameras in the van up north here. The Trooper has the discretion to have the camera take pictures at whatever speed he wants. IDOT says in their online press release that it will be at 11 mph over the 45 mph limit. The Trooper told me that he has heard the guys in the van usually go with 15 over. But they could set it for just 6 over. Ugh. IDOT says the cameras make $25,000 an hour in fines. Yikes!
Two weeks ago, I made my drive with my cruise control set at 52 mph in the 45 zone. I never passed a single vehicle. Not one! I was passed by more than 500 vehicles (I lost track because one of them was a red Noble...I never saw one before...see, I know my cars because I'm a car nut who reads all the magazines!). I would say I was borderline unsafe going 53 (still 8 mph over the construction zone limit) because other vehicles would rush up behind me in the right lane and slam on their brakes before going around me and cutting off other cars in the center lane. It was a scary test.
I checked out Radar Roy's site online. I called his tech people. I told them I wanted a radar detector to use in a straight line (not twisty roads, no hills) on the highway to detect photo radar vans. I don't need it for small towns, or speedtraps. I am only afraid of these huge fine, construction zone, photo radar vans.
The tech said I should be well equipped with the Whistler Pro 78. Yep, the V1, Escort, and Bel STI detectors are better. But they're also twice the cost of the $179 Pro 78. Instead of buying an older, non-upgraded version off Ebay or Amazon, I went with Radar Roy's $179 deal. Here it is mounted inside my Mustang convertible's windshield:
It emitts X band signal recognition while pointed at Walgreen's automatic opening front doors! I found that out today after opening the box and setting up the detector.
I begin midnight shift this coming weekend. I'm going to bring it to work and hopefully Sunday will be a slow night. We have Ka, Falcon, instant on radar and one laser unit. I'm going to play around with the Whistler. Hopefully another officer can shoot some radar, leaving it on, trying instant on with me trailing the car being shot at, and then just shooting the radar or laser at me.