Abels & Annes

Red light cameras may lead to increase in Chicago auto accidents – that according to Prof. at University of Illinois at Chicago

A professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago has come to the conclusion that red light cameras in the city do not decrease the number of Chicago car accidents. The professor’s reasoning was reported today in the Vancouver Sun.

The City of Chicago is claiming that right angle accidents at intersections with red light cameras were reduced by 20%, and that all types of accidents were reduced by 10%. Professor Rajiv Shah seems to agree with that statistic (actually at around a 21% decrease when analyzing traffic trends from 2001 through 2008), but the problem is that accident rates have actually declined all across the City of Chicago, including on freeways, near schools and construction sites, and on city streets.

The professor’s theory for the decrease in accidents is that Chicago residents drove around 1 billion less miles in 2008 than they drove in 2002. So his belief is essentially that less miles driven equals less accidents, and therefore read light cameras have not played a significant role in accident reduction.

Shah then analyzed the Illinois Department of Transportation’s data for red light cameras installed between 2006 and 2007, and there were some concerning results. He found that the year after the cameras were installed, accidents of all types at those intersections had a 6% increase. He believes that this was due to an increase of rear end accidents at those locations.

In my own personal experience, I can understand the theory. I regularly pass by red light cameras at two intersections on the North Shore of Chicago at Willow Road. I know the cameras are there, and when a light turns yellow I tend to jam on the brakes (and then look in the rearview mirror and hope that I’m not going to get hit from behind). I seem to do this even though I feel it would be safer to go through the intersection.

The article goes on to point out that there is some evidence that red light cameras have led to a decrease in severe Chicago accidents. However, the decrease only adds up to only a 1.5% difference, and the professor feels that this percentage is so small that it is “statistically meaningless”. (The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications compared 10 red light camera intersections to 10 regular intersections and found a 5.3% decrease in severe accidents at red light cameras, as compared to only 3.8% decrease at normal traffic signals).

Shah goes on in the article to give the opinion that in Chicago red light cameras are really all about revenue. In 2009 alone, red light cameras produced over $60 million in fines.


If you have been rear-ended in an Illinois car accident, contact the Chicago injury lawyers at Abels & Annes for a free consultation. Call 312-924-7575 to speak to a lawyer now.