City speed cameras: Keeping kids safe or just a money maker?

120 speed cameras are now up and running near Chicago parks and schools. Their purpose, the city says, is to keep children safe.  But are they in the places where they really need to be?
The cameras’ location is based, in large part, on the number of accidents in the so-called Child Safety Zones. But when WGN News tried to get specific numbers to clarify, we were met with roadblocks. No surprise from critics who have always said speed cameras are for money not safety.

The city’s Dept of Transportation says the locations were based on traffic accident reports collected from IDOT.  At the intersection of Western and Addison on the North Side, for example, there were 455 vehicle crashes  between 2009-2011 with 101 involving children. But what it doesn’t show is whether those children were in the cars or pedestrians.A closer look by ChicagoCrashes.org shows the number of bike and pedestrian crashes at that corner is relatively small: 26 between 2005-and -2012.

The city’s own 2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis shows pedestrian crashes have dropped dramatically, 22 percent, since 2001. But nowhere does the report point to certain schools or parks as accident-prone areas.

“They’re basically made up numbers,” Mark Wallace Executive Director for Citizens Abolish Red Light/Speed Cameras, “They don’t have any real statistics as to the so called accidents.” Wallace says the program is simply a money maker.

Critics of the cameras can even be found in City Hall.

Alderman Leslie Hairston didn’t see the speed warning signs or the park which the cameras are protecting at Indianapolis Boulevard and 103rd. She was flashed with a warning last February.

“There needs to be a certain flashing light. There needs to be brighter signage so they don’t look like other street signs,” she says.

Hairston introduced at resolution to at least have better signage. It’s stuck in committee.

The only weapon left is a red camera lawsuit which could also affect speed cameras. The Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments later this month.

City Transportation officials say, at this point, they’re only issuing tickets to drivers who go 10 miles over the speed limit. They don’t know when they’ll start fining those who exceed the limit by 6-to-9 miles per hour. The city has collected $4 million dollars in fines so far.

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