Illinois Red Light Cameras Issuing Faulty Tickets

Red Light CamerasAn investigative report by the Chicago Tribune uncovered that thousands of Illinois drivers have been issued faulty and undeserved tickets by red light cameras across the state.

The 7-page investigative story is astounding. In their report, the Tribune notes that more than 4 million red light tickets have been issued since 2007, some of which were caused by faulty equipment, human intervention or both.

To investigate the recent spike in red light tickets, the Tribune conducted a 10-month study of more than 13,000 questionable red light tickets at 12 intersections throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. After analyzing all the data, the journalists uncovered:

  • Cameras that used to generate only a few tickets a day were suddenly catching dozens of drivers. For example, a light near the United Center averaged one ticket per day up until a two-week period last summer where it averaged 56 tickets per day. After the two-week period, it dropped back down to one or two tickets a day.
  • There appeared to be an unannounced change in the way cameras ticketed rolling stops. Of the 100 tickets a North Side camera issued in the second half of 2011, only 12 were for rolling stops. Then, over a 12-day period, the light issued 563 tickets. 560 of those were for rolling stops.
  • Many spikes were preceded by periods of very few tickets, meaning human intervention likely produced the spike, but city officials have no record of tinkering. They also stated they have no idea how the records could have been lost. (Were they ever recorded in the first place?)
  • Drivers who appealed their red light ticket won their case less than 10 percent of the time.

Experts say there are only two possible causes for the spike in tickets, undocumented human intervention to catch more drivers, or faulty equipment. Either way, it’s the public that suffers, to the tune of $500 million since 2003.

The city said they independently viewed 300 random videos from the spikes and went on record saying no tickets were issued in error, but they would not release the camera footage to substantiate their claim.

Brett Appelman comments

Since the very beginning of the red-light-camera program there have been many issues regarding their lawfulness and reliability. Thousands of people have argued that the cameras are not in fact able to distinguish between a lawful stop at a red light, and someone running the red light. Many cities across the country have had to remove all of their red-light-cameras and discontinue their use due to lawsuits and financial losses to the municipalities.

In Illinois, the tickets given out from these devices are not considered criminal in nature so they prosecutor does not have to prove you are guilty of a violation beyond a reasonable doubt. The law considers these tickets as civil in nature, so the burden of proof the prosecutor must meet to find you liable is much lower. Many times the video is blurry or slightly obscured, but the defendant is found liable anyway.

These red-light-camera tickets are about one thing and one thing only: money. The cities are simply trying to raise more funds by squeezing every last dime out of the drivers on the roads. The companies who install and run the cameras end up taking a huge percentage of the money collected, so they certainly have a motive to set the cameras up to simply give tickets to everyone, whether a violation occurred or not. As I stated before, due to these discrepancies, many cities and even some states have moved to ban, or are in the process of banning these devices. Illinois should follow suit and ban them as well, and if they do uncover foul play or faulty equipment, they should refund drivers. People need to be shown that this system is designed to catch illegal driving maneuvers, not an arbitrary system to steal money from law-abiding citizens.

New 911 Bill Now in Effect in Illinois

911 LawA new law that prevents establishments from forcing a guest to “dial out” before calling 911 went into effect late last week.

The new regulation applies to all businesses that require guests to press a number before entering in the phone number they wish to dial. Many hotels and restaurants used to require that a guest dial “9” before calling anyone outside the establishment, but that will no longer be the case.

The law received unanimous support after legislators heard the story of a young girl in Texas. In that case, the girl was in a hotel room when a man entered and stabbed her mother. Not knowing that she needed to dial “9” before hitting 911, the girl was unable to quickly reach the police. The girl’s mother died as a result of her wounds. Legislators in Illinois hope the new law will prevent a similar tragedy.

“When you dial those three digits you get to an emergency responder, you’re able to describe the situation. It will be of tremendous benefit to the emergency responders,” said Illinois State Representative Dan Belser.

Businesses that do not comply with the new law will face fines of $1,000 to $5,000. Those businesses that have been deemed incapable of complying based on their current phone setup will be required to follow the law the next time they update their phone system.

Many Illinois hotels said they have already changed their phone system to adhere to the new regulations.

Related source: KMOV

Huge 4th of July DUI Enforcement Underway in Illinois 

DUI Patrol ILThe Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois State Police (ISP) hope to continue the downward trend of traffic deaths on state roads by conducting a large scale DUI and seatbelt enforcement.

The Fourth of July is often a fun holiday filled with family and fireworks, but Tonya Loker, IDOT Director of Traffic Safety, said the holiday also involves two dangerous elements: heavy traffic and alcohol. Loker said the added patrols will help keep Fourth of July commuters safe.

“IDOT and law enforcement remind everyone this weekend that if you drink and drive in Illinois this Fourth of July, you will be caught,” said Loker. “Whether driving a car or motorcycle, if you plan on drinking alcohol, designate a sober driver or find a safe way home BEFORE the party begins. Be responsible or risk a DUI.”

The added patrols begin today and run through Sunday, July 6. ISP Director Hiram Grau said the patrols will focus on drivers who violate four of the most dangerous driving acts.

“The upcoming Fourth of July holiday means law enforcement statewide will be out on the roads enforcing laws to avoid tragic outcomes. To boost safety around the holiday weekend, the Illinois State Police enforcement efforts will focus on the Fatal Four – Speeding, Seatbelts, Distracted Driving and DUI.”

The Illinois State Police and more than 320 local law enforcement agencies will join IDOT in the DUI and seatbelt crackdown, and before you start thinking that you only need to make it to the state border to avoid the extra patrols, know that Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are conducting similar sweeps.

Sobering Statistics

Although 85 less individuals have lost their lives on Illinois roads this year compared to the same time last year, the Fourth of July holiday if often the deadliest weekend of the year, especially when the holiday falls on a Friday.

According to IDOT, 18 motorists died on Illinois roads during the Fourth of July holiday last year, and 33 percent of those deaths involved at least one driver who had been drinking. 58 people have lost their lives on Illinois roads during the holiday weekend in the last five years, and 50 percent of the fatalities have involved an inebriated driver.

Brett Appelman added that the drive sober sentiment should apply to all vehicles this weekend.

“Be smart over the holiday weekend when it comes to drinking and driving,” said Appelman. “Just because it’s not a car doesn’t mean you aren’t subjected to the same laws. If you’re over the legal limit, steer clean of recreational vehicles like boats, pontoons and ATVs.”

Related source: IDOT