Did You Know?

Only 0.7 percent of federal transportation funds are spent on improving pedestrian facilities.

Reform – don’t ban – red light camera programs

As legislators in Springfield consider legislation to ban red light cameras in many Illinois communities, it’s important to recognize the proven safety benefits.

When used fairly and effectively, research shows that red light cameras make our streets safer for everybody.

In 2017 researchers at the Northwestern University Transportation Center found that Chicago’s red-light camera program delivers significant safety benefits. The study discovered that serious right-angle and turning crashes decreased by 19 percent at intersections with cameras, and injury-producing crashes dropped by 10 percent.

Research has also found evidence of a “spillover effect,” which has lead to safety benefits and crash reductions at intersections and streets without cameras. The Federal Highway Administration first recognized the proven safety benefits of photo enforcement technology in 2005.

The mismanagement and corruption surrounding some camera programs is a breach of public trust and those involved should be held accountable.

But overall, red light and speed camera programs should continue to be reformed and improved to maximize safety benefits, eliminate corruption, and mitigate disproportionate impacts for low-income people.

More revenue from camera programs should go towards traffic safety infrastructure. More ethics rules should be in place to limit profiteering and revenue grabs. There must be alternatives to fines and fees that drive low-income people into debt and limit economic opportunity.

The solution is not to outright ban this technology that prevents crashes and saves lives.


Active Trans endorses the following reforms issued by AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the National Safety Council.

1. Position the cameras at the most dangerous intersections.

2. Target the most dangerous violations, i.e. blowing straight through lights.

3. Use standard signal timing.

4. Allocate the revenue to street safety programs.

5. Encourage public input to help design the program and oversee changes.

6. Be transparent — collect and publish data about how the program is functioning.

7. Don’t create bad incentives for the vendor by paying them by the number of tickets issued.

8. Don’t set up hair-trigger cameras that target minor violations.

9. Allow for due process by having an easily accessible process for contesting tickets.

10. Develop sliding-scale fines and alternatives to payment, such as traffic school or restorative justice programs, for low-income drivers

Without reforms like this, red light cameras will be less effective and continue to be vulnerable to corruption. Legislators should be proactive with fair regulations focused on safety.