Chicago collected record revenues last year after rejigging its speed cameras in order to fin any vehicle that was traveling less than 6 mph above the posted speed limit.
The Chicago Department of Finance released data this week that shows the 160 speed cameras in Chicago issued over 2.81 Million tickets to motorists last year. They also collected $89M from drivers. This is more than the number of residents in the city and means that one ticket was issued for every eleven seconds throughout the year.
The city’s speed cameras have generated a lot more revenue than they did in the past. It is possible that Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Philadelphia, ordered the cameras to target slower drivers. The cameras used to issue $100 fines and tickets to motorists who drove more than 10mph above the speed limit. These fines are still in effect, however the cameras can now issue $35 penalties to drivers who go between 6-10 mph above the speed limit.
According to data from the Department of Finance, these $35 tickets made up more than half of all Chicago’s tickets in 2021.
Lightfoot and other supporters of speed cameras say they keep Chicago streets safer because high-speed driving is discouraged. But the Illinois Policy Institute pointed out that 2021 saw more car crashes in Chicago than 2020, or 2019.
Patrick Andriesen writes for the institute as a staff writer. “The safety argument seems weak given the many studies and an increase in accident deaths. Speed cameras could be called “cash cams” instead.
Unsurprisingly, Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods are the ones where the cameras are most prevalent. As a result they are the most affected by fines. Andriesen points to the fact that almost half of all tickets given to low-income drivers were not paid in time. Late fees make those $35 tickets for speeding into $85 tickets.
The system, which was originally designed to reduce the number of dangerous drivers by using cameras, had been a tax on Chicago’s poorest communities. The A ProPublica analysis of the city’s traffic cameras—including both speed cameras and it’s corrupt red-light camera system—found that Chicago had generated over $500 million in 15 years from automatic tickets issued in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The fines resulted in “thousands” of vehicle seizures, driver’s licence suspensions and bankruptcies. ProPublica found.
Some federal officials are trying to make Chicago’s speed cameras a template for the rest.
As There are reasonsJulian Verdon, a reporter for the Associated Press reported that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has launched a new National Roadway Safety Strategy. This strategy promotes speed cameras as a proven safety measure to reduce car accidents.
It is important to remember that these cameras can often find the wrong vehicle, and falsely accuse drivers are forced to fight long legal battles in order to avoid being fined. It is a very serious matter. Certain All about highway safety. This is precisely why Chicago got caught sending late fee notices to drivers who were not paying their fines. Washington, D.C.’s most notorious speed camera is in a zone where no roadwork is taking place, thus allowing it to double the fine.
Chicago may be seeing more traffic fatalities and car crashes since they lowered the speed ticket threshold. However, revenue has soared. Perhaps the program works exactly as it should.