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Schaumburg showing stop sign to red light cameras
By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/25/2009 12:00 AM

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While red-light cameras remain a technology many suburbs still plan for their futures, in Schaumburg they're about to become a thing of the past.

A staff recommendation next month is expected to make the village's one remaining camera obsolete and resolve against pursuing any more.

Police Chief Brian Howerton said the assessment of the camera his department is wrapping up suggests it's provided little public safety benefit.

His department looked at data from the camera at Woodfield and Meacham roads, as well as the potential for cameras at other accident-prone intersections.

"The result is very few crashes at any of our major intersections have been the result of traffic signal violations," Howerton said.

Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said the whole point of installing the cameras was to prevent T-bone accidents at intersections. Companies selling the cameras made a compelling case about their ability to stop those, he added.

"It was not our intent to use them as a revenue generator," Larson said.

On the other hand, he emphasized that he would not use the lessons Schaumburg learned to generalize advice for any other community.

It took only one intersection and 21/2 months to turn Schaumburg officials from bright-eyed newcomers into grizzled veterans on the issue of red-light cameras.

The Meacham-Woodfield intersection was chosen as a testing ground, as both roads were village-owned and didn't require permission from the state or county.

After a two-week warning period, the village began issuing $100 tickets in mid-November for violations recorded at the corner near Woodfield Shopping Center.

That the camera generated more than 7,000 tickets by New Year's Day astounded village officials.

About 98 percent of the violations were from vehicles that didn't stop completely before making a right turn from westbound Woodfield Road to northbound Meacham.

This percentage stayed intact until the right-turn camera was turned off in early February, after more than 10,000 tickets had been issued and nearly $1 million collected from the single intersection.

During this period, the village received about 50 negative phone calls, letters and e-mails. Many angry out-of-towners threatened to boycott Schaumburg as a shopping, dining and entertainment destination.

Howerton said different communities have different goals for the use of red-light cameras. Some want them simply to change driver behavior, and not stopping completely before turning right at a red light truly is illegal, he said.

But Schaumburg's goal was always strictly to prevent collisions, and the data doesn't support their ability to fulfill that goal, Howerton said.