Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chicago makes Top 10 List of cites with most speed traps, but not all of the charges in the indictment are true

Our fair city has made yet another unhappy Top 10 List, this one a list of the country's worst speed traps. According to the linked article by Cindy Perman, posted yesterday on Yahoo! Autos and provided by, Chicago has the dubious distinction of being the ninth worst city in the country for speed traps. According to Perman's article, we have 153 (and, no, I don't know who counted). However, as will be seen, at least some of Perman's information is inaccurate.

Of Chicago, Perman writes:
Chicago now uses red-light cameras to nab motorists for running lights and speeding, which increases the city's ticketing power. And, while, speed limits are supposed to be determined by engineering studies, [Chad Dornsife, director of the Highway Safety Group,] notes that the last study on one red light speed trap here was done in 1994 and the Department of Transportation deemed the safest speed was 43 miles per hour. The posted limit? 30.

Dorsnife notes two problems here: First, some of the traffic-control devices are 20 and 30 years old. And second, on the interstates, local politicians control the speed limits — and the enforcement in the courts. So, good luck fighting a ticket.

Barnet Fagel, aka "The Ticket Doctor," noted one particularly tricky speed trap: Motorists have to drive at a snail's pace leading up to the entrance to Lake Shore Drive, which then opens up into a six-lane highway. A half-mile in is the speed trap, where the speed limit is 40 and police nab drivers just as they're starting to pick up speed. "Comparable divided highways carry higher speed limits by as much as 10 to 20 mph more," he said.
While I'm certain that Chicago has its share of speed traps, I'm pretty sure that not only are red-light cameras not being used as speed traps, they can't be used for this purpose.

And I refer to not to technological limitations, but legal ones.

There was legislation pending in Illinois to permit the use of cameras to nab speeders; I wrote about it on this blog in March 2009. That speed camera bill failed. Currently, as far as I know, with the exception of the Automated Traffic Control Systems in Highway Construction or Maintenance Zones Act, 625 ILCS 7/1, et seq., "no photographic, video, or other imaging system may be used in this State to record vehicle speeds for the purpose of enforcing any law or ordinance regarding a maximum or minimum speed limit unless a law enforcement officer is present at the scene and witnesses the event." See, 625 ILCS 5/11-612.

The Automated Traffic Control Systems in Highway Construction or Maintenance Zones Act gives the State Police the authority to set up a candid camera in construction zones on expressways or on Illinois Tollways, but, since section 5 of the Act expressly provides that its purpose is safety in construction zones, section 10 imposes a burden on the State to prove, in any prosecution brought under the Act, "that one or more workers were present in the construction or maintenance zone when the violation occurred."

So maybe there are 153 speed traps in Chicago, but "red light cameras" are not victimizing hasty Chicago drivers. At least, not yet.

Gosh -- does this mean that you can't believe everything you read on the Internet after all?

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