Chicago Red Light Cameras Cause More Rear-End Collisions, Decrease Safety

Whenever speed cameras are deployed around a city, we're always given the same spiel: it's all about safety, and decreasing traffic accidents. Admittedly, it does stand to reason that if someone knows there's a speed camera up ahead, they'll probably be a little more cautious behind the wheel.

If only it actually worked like that. If you've ever had to deal with a speed camera, you're probably well aware that its biggest benefit is padding your city's pocketbook. That's what many Chicagoans are finding out the hard way. A local newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, did some research into whether or not the hundreds of speed cameras scattered around the city actually improved anything, and it found that they didn't - despite the local government stating the opposite.

It should be noted that the newspaper's testing methods have been outed as being a little flawed in some ways, but its findings do back up what many believe would actually happen once speed cameras are put into place. The newspaper found that there was a 15% drop in right-angle crashes, but a 22% increase in rear-end crashes. It doesn't take much imagination to understand why that'd be the case: many people spot the speed camera at the last minute, and then slam on their brakes to avoid a speeding ticket.

Speed Camera Flickr Nicholas Eckhart
Flickr: Nicholas Eckhart

Whenever the issues of speed cameras are brought up, I'm reminded of a story from last year which saw their deployment go ridiculously wrong for one small Ohio town. Despite having a population of just 2,000, the town's speed cameras resulted in a staggering 6,600 tickets issued in a single month.

We're seeing similar issues in Chicago. The Tribune noted that there were some major speeding violation spikes since 2007, and at one point, it was so bad that 9,000 people that received tickets were allowed to contest them. Ultimately, though, only 126 were actually refunded.

When speeding tickets average out to about $100 a pop, it's not hard to understand why cities would be reluctant to remove their speed cameras.

Tags:  law, Auto, motorist