Red Light & Traffic Cameras in Chicago

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”3741″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]For the past few years, Chicago has relied on traffic cameras to detect and report on minor traffic violations at intersections throughout the city. These monitoring systems aren’t always popular with drivers, but their positive impact on road safety is apparent. Before hitting the road in Chicago, it’s a good idea to learn a little more about how the city’s traffic cameras work.

The History Of Red Light Cameras In Chicago

Based on direct experience and statistical analysis, the Chicago Department Of Transportation (CDOT) has long known that high-angle (i.e. T-bone) crashes are the most dangerous and costly accidents happening on the city’s streets. Chicago looked to automated red light cameras as a possible weapon in the fight against these potentially deadly accidents. The city’s first test cameras were deployed (at Western and Peterson and Western and 55th) in 2003. Since then the program has expanded considerably, and CDOT currently (as of 2015) operates 352 cameras throughout the city.

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Automated camera monitoring has had a measurable positive effect on traffic safety in Chicago. The camera system achieved its initial purpose by reducing the number of T-bone crashes by nearly half (47%) at monitored intersections. Accidents of all types (even including rear-end crashes) were also reduced by roughly 33%. The success of the system has led to the adoption of further automated camera systems, including speed cameras and right turn cameras.

CDOT currently manages its cameras to provide the best possible improvement in road safety. Cameras are installed based on accident statistics and remain in place for at least two years. Cameras may be relocated to other intersections after they’ve had a positive impact on safety. Signs are posted to notify drivers approaching from all directions of the presence of traffic cameras at an upcoming intersection.

What Constitutes A Violation

The particular occurrence that Chicago’s traffic cameras are looking for is a vehicle that enters and crosses an intersection after the light has turned red. Certain situations that might strand a vehicle in an intersection during a red light (like waiting to complete a safe left turn) are taken into account when issuing out tickets.

All of the automated cameras used by CDOT will take photos of situations that might not earn a ticket. Cars making right turns are always photographed, but will only be issued a ticket if the intersection does not allow turns on red or the driver did not come to a complete stop. Specialized cameras that exclusively monitor turning are used at some intersections throughout Chicago.

How The Camera System Works

New drivers should familiarize themselves with the way the cameras operate and how their information is processed. All of CDOT’s cameras use radar sensors to precisely locate vehicles and judge their speed. The criteria that trigger a traffic camera for a light violation are fairly typical: the camera must detect both the front and rear wheels of a car entering the intersection after the signal has turned red.

All traffic camera data is carefully reviewed before a ticket is issued. Two separate reviewers have to confirm that a violation has occurred before a citation is sent to the driver. The camera system preserves detailed records — including three photos and 12 seconds of video — to document every violation. These records are available online to drivers who have received citations.

Important Safety Concerns

While traffic cameras can be frustrating to both new drivers and experienced ones, their effectiveness in improving road safety is well-established. The details provided above regarding the way the cameras operate should make it clear that every possible step is taken to ensure that only genuine violations are sent tickets.

Some drivers faced with an intersection violation are naturally inclined to argue their case based on the presence of a yellow light. CDOT’s intersection cameras are linked to the traffic light system and are accurate down to a tenth of a second; if a camera is triggered then the light turned red before the car entered the intersection. It’s important to remember that yellow lights are a cautionary signal; the appropriate response is to come to a stop whenever there is sufficient time and space to do so.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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