As reported earlier this month on our Chicago Car Accident Lawyers blog, local law enforcement and safety advocates continue to promote the cameras as effective traffic safety devices, even as opponents content they increase the chance of rear-end collisions and are being used as little more than a revenue-generating tool for municipalities.
The report found most Chicago yellow lights last three seconds, the bare minimum recommended by federal safety guidelines. Suburban yellow lights generally last for four or four-and-a-half seconds.
City officials insist the duration of Chicago yellow lights is safe and that the time predates installations of cameras across the city — which photograph red-light runners and send tickets to vehicle owners.
The issue has come to the attention of lawmakers in Springfield as camera opponents accuse the city of shortening yellow lights at camera-equipped intersections in an effort to collect more revenue from tickets.
Chicago began equipping intersections with cameras in 2003 — the suburbs started three years later. Currently, 186 Chicago intersections have cameras installed, by far the most of any city in the nation. Last year, the $100 fines generated more than $59 million in revenue.
A report last year by the Tribune found accidents at 60 percent of intersections with cameras either increased or held steady. The city disputed the findings.
However, safety advocates have asked a far more basic question that is now topic of heated debate: If the devices are geared toward reducing red-light running, does shorter yellow lights undermine that goal?
Federal guidelines recommend yellow lights last between 3 and 6 seconds — in practice, roads with faster speeds should have longer yellow lights because of the amount of time it takes to come to a safe stop for a changing signal. Most Chicago streets have an average speed of 30 mph, while speeds in the suburbs tend to be faster — a legitimate reason for longer caution signals in the outlying areas around Chicago.
However, opponents contend camera-equipped suburban intersections, with speeds similar to Chicago streets, have longer yellow lights, which provide more time to stop.
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