Chicago car accident lawyers monitor expanding city program of red light cameras

Chicago is on course to triple the number of red-light cameras at intersections in a move the city contends is reducing car accidents while providing an increasing source of revenue in the face of a projected $300-million budget gap.

The Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes are watching the impact of the program in Chicago and elsewhere as an increasing number of personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are moving to use the tapes in court to assist in recovering damages from negligent drivers who injure or kill innocent motorists.

Last week, City Council Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke proposed increasing the fine from $100 to $125 and using the extra money to require offenders to complete a “Red Light Education Program.”

“Clearly, when you’re talking about 27 percent of the six million accidents that occur on U.S. roadways every year occurring at intersections, it would seem to be a move in the right direction,” Burke told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration counted 6,024 fatalities at stop signs or traffic signals in 2007 and more than 600,000 injuries.

Chicago red-light cameras are already installed at 143 accident-prone intersections in the city – with 39 more expected to go up later this year and 330 intersections expected to have cameras by 2012.

The Sun-Times notes that while changing driver behavior is the ultimate goal, the cameras have become a giant cash cow for the city — generating $44.8 million last year. And earlier this year council was pitched a proposal that claimed $200 million a year could be made by using the cameras with a program that referenced insurance data to hunt down uninsured motorists.

Such alternative missions of the cameras have been questioned by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union as far back as 2001.

“The ACLU is most concerned about what we call “mission creep” — that the data collected by these cameras will be used for purposes other than tracking reckless drivers,” Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union said at the time. “Government and private-industry surveillance techniques created for one purpose are rarely restricted to that purpose, and every expansion of a data bank and every new use for the data opens the door to more and more privacy abuses.”

The issue of the cameras’ big-brother nature aside, drivers who run red lights cause thousands of serious and deadly car accidents in this country each year. They can be held liable for the serious injury or wrongful death of the innocent motorists whose lives they impact and, in some cases, can be criminally charged.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a serious car accident, there are things you can do to help protect your rights. The car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes offer free appointments to discuss your case. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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