Since Des Plaines installed its red light cameras about a year ago, they have been a hot topic among critics and supporters.
The debate is ongoing. Supporters say the cameras allow municipalities to monitor intersections more effectively, improving traffic safety. Critics say there is no evidence red light cameras improve safety, and they are no more than revenue generators.
Barnet Fagel of the National Motorists Association, an advocacy group for drivers’ rights, said while intersections can and do present dangerous situations, red light cameras do not deter the top three red light violators: impaired drivers, emergency vehicles, and distracted drivers.
Fagel said red light camera tickets are nothing more than a tax.
Cities across the Chicago area have taken their red light cameras out of intersections because data did not indicate accidents were decreasing, Fagel said.
Other towns have seen different results. Additionally, Patch received a in support of the cameras.
In an experiment to test the effectiveness of red light cameras, Elk Grove Village temporarily turned off its red light cameras, and accidents increased, said Debra Beerup, director of client relations at RedSpeed Illinois, the firm that maintains Des Plaines’ cameras.
In a Patch reported accidents increased since the cameras at the intersection of Rand and Golf roads were activated a year ago, and police said there were no plans to add more cameras.
Beerup said with so many cities and villages working under budget constraints, red light cameras allow police departments to move their officers to more important assignments.
The maintenance cost is about $1,500 per month for each camera, she said.
“It doesn’t cost the community anything,” Beerup said, referring to the revenue generated by the cameras. “Those that pay the costs are those drivers who are breaking the law.”
Yellow Light Length
Fagel said he supports extending the length of yellow lights, while Beerup said there have been “mixed studies” on extending yellow lights.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, extending yellow lights is an effective way to deter red light running, and reduced red light violations by 36 percent.
However, the same study found the addition of red light camera enforcement further reduced red light violations by 96 percent beyond levels achieved by the longer yellow timing.