In its monitoring of photo red cameras, the Chicago Tribune published a story yesterday about how little, if any, effect the cameras are having on safety.
If improved safety is the goal of red-light cameras, then it is a mission largely unaccomplished for the first crop of area suburbs that raced to install the devices after they became legal in 2006, according to state data.
Accidents rose -- in some cases, significantly -- at half the 14 suburban intersections outfitted with traffic cameras by the end of 2007, the data show. The number of crashes fell at just five of those intersections after cameras went in, while two showed little change.
The most striking results come from Oak Lawn, which in September 2007 switched on cameras at the very busy junction of Cicero Avenue and 95th Street.
In 2006, before cameras, that intersection was the scene of one broadside crash -- the dangerous type of collision that cameras are said to be most aimed at reducing. By 2008, with cameras, the total of broadsides had risen to five. Overall, the number of crashes of all types rose from 34 in 2006 to 44 in 2008, according to state data.
Roger Pawlowski, a division chief at the Oak Lawn Police Department, said the benefits of red-light cameras can't always be extrapolated from crash statistics.
The suburban crash numbers, compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation from local police reports, reflect a similar accident trend as that found in state data on city intersections with cameras. The Tribune reported last month that IDOT records showed collisions either increasing or holding steady at nearly 60 percent of the 47 city intersections equipped with red-light cameras in 2006 or 2007.
(The city keeps a parallel set of crash statistics for its camera-monitored intersections, and it shows collisions typically going down after cameras are installed. City and state officials could not explain why their crash numbers are so different.)
I wonder how that's working out for Spokane. The last I heard, city officials were thinking about adding photo red to some other intersections, but according to the Spokane Police Department site that hasn't happened yet. The Inlander did a story just last September after the cameras were in place for a year, but the city didn't offer up any evidence to indicate improved safety.
But they are making money. So don't support Photo Red--drive safely instead.