Judge Rules in Favor of Chicago’s Controversial Red Light Camera Program

On April 1, Cook County Circuit Judge Rita M. Novak dismissed a class-action lawsuit seeking to end Chicago’s red light camera program and reimburse citizens for the $600 million collected in fees, fines, and interest since 2006. The suit argued that the ordinance violates the Illinois constitution, as it only applied to certain communities rather than the state as a whole. Novak denied the claim on the basis that:

“It was rational for the General Assembly to presume that there are more cars and intersections in the affected areas. As such, the occurrence of red light violations is also presumably higher. Further because more cars are likely to be near an intersection at any given time in the affected areas, the risk of a serious accident occurring as a result of a red light violation goes up. Accordingly, the legislature could have rationally concluded that these areas have different enforcement needs than the rest of the state.”

The lawsuit is part of ongoing efforts to challenge the ordinance, which has been controversial since its inception, on a variety of levels. A 2014 Chicago Tribune study found the city’s claims that the red light program increased public safety to be unfounded. Though the program was attributed with decreasing the number of side-impact collisions by 17%, the number of rear-impact accidents increased by 22%. This implies that drivers may have hit the brakes to avoid running a red light and getting a ticket, thereby causing more rear-end accidents. Overall, the study found that the program did not reduce injury by a statistically significant measure.

Opponents, such as Alderman George Cardenas, have criticized the cameras as a money-making scheme rather than a legitimate safety effort. Cardenas said, “This camera is nothing more than an aggressive tactic to nickel and dime the taxpayers of this area.”

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Jake Steele is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying finance and management. During his time at Consumers’ Research, he has examined developing trends in finance and technology.

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