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

Speed camera company put brakes on tighter school zone speed limits

No, that headline is not a misprint. You would think American Traffic Systems (ATS), one of two finalists to be Chicago's speed camera vendor, would want exactly what House Bill 3229 does. 

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The bill would expand the hours that the 20 mph speed limit applies in school zones from school hours only (the current law) to anytime a child is present.

The bill, which recently sailed through the Illinois House but stalled in the Senate, makes sense because we know kids in school zones are often hit by cars after school hours. This was reported in an article by the Chicago Tribune and helped inspire the bill.

Active Trans has been an outspoken proponent of enhanced enforcement of traffic laws, including safety-driven speed camera enforcement. We helped pass legislation in Springfield and the Chicago City Council to allow speed cameras in Chicago.

In addition to increasing the hours that Chicago speed camera tickets could be issued for people driving over 20 mph, HB 3229 would slow cars down around thousands of schools across Illinois. (The actual limit is 25 mph, as Chicago’s speed camera law allows for 5 mph above the limit.)

So I was expecting chocolates and a nice thank you note from ATS, but instead they emerged from the shadows at the last minute to effectively prevent HB 3229 from getting a vote in the Illinois Senate.

Why? ATS says it's harder to issue speed camera tickets if the photo has to prove a child is present, and they wanted that requirement eliminated. And so did Active Trans and our House sponsor, Rep. Nekritz.

We think it's best to just slow down near schools and not require drivers to look around for children present. That is simpler and safer for everyone, whether or not speed cameras are involved. However, we could not get that provision approved in the House.

But HB 3299 does expand the 20 mph limitation to anytime a child is present, which is a major improvement knowing that kids often get hit by cars outside of school hours.

In a classic case of making perfection the enemy of the good, ATS derailed a bill that would make kids safer at thousands of schools because it doesn’t fully address the problem they have for a couple of hundred schools with speed cameras in Chicago.

HB 3229 would have passed without ATS' opposition, that is clear, and we could have worked in the future to address issues unique to speed cameras.

Active Trans will continue to push for passage, and if possible, the elimination of the “when children are present” requirement. But even if this bill passes in the veto session next fall, that's a 6 month delay before drivers are slowed down outside of school hours.