Chicago Tribune Uses Science to Demolish Windy City's Corrupt Red Light Camera Program


More red lights = more greenbacks
Credit: PJMixer / photo on flickr

The science has spoken: Chicago's red light camera program hasn't made driving in the city any safer and has replaced one type of car crash for another. The cameras are there obviously to make money for the city, not for the benefit and safety of the residents.

The Chicago Tribune commissioned a study to break down the city's claims that cameras have reduced right-angle crashes at intersections by 47 percent and calls the number nonsense. They calculate that it actually dropped the rate of crashes that caused injuries by only 15 percent. That wouldn't be such a terrible number if engineers hadn't also calculated that their cameras didn't also cause a 22 percent increase in rear-end collisions that caused injuries. The study also determined that the 40 percent of the cameras put up by the city were placed in intersections where injury-causing collisions were already rare. Hmmm … why would they do that?

A news story can't (or probably shouldn't anyway) simply directly assert the cameras were installed for the money, but the Tribune story makes sure to point out how much revenue the city has gotten from the program—$500 million over 12 years. The Tribune also reminds readers of the many, many, many scandals and issues the program has faced, like tickets handed out for lights that had yellow signal times below the national standard, unexplained ticket surges, and outright bribes from a company operating the cameras to city officials:

"The biggest takeaway is that overall (the program) seems to have had little effect," said Dominique Lord, an associate professor at Texas A&M University's Zachry Department of Civil Engineering who led the Tribune's study.

"So the question now is: If we eliminate a certain type of collision and increase the other and overall it stays the same, is there an argument that it is fair to go with the program?" Lord said. "That is a question that I cannot answer.

"Just the elected officials can answer for that."

Unsurprisingly, city officials are insisting that in defiance of all evidence, the program does result in fewer deaths and injuries. Read the full Chicago Tribune analysis here.