A national protest against automated red-light ticketing cameras organized on the Internet will find activists gathering for a "safety rally" at a prominent Chicago intersection Sunday.
"We hope to create more headlines and public awareness," said Barnet Fagel, of Buffalo Grove, who is the Illinois safety advocate for the National Motorists Association and, as a self-proclaimed "traffic researcher," is also leading the fight against red-light cameras in his own community.
The Nationwide Red Light Camera Protest, called for Sunday, is being organized on the Internet through the Facebook social-networking site. So far, 10 protests have been organized across the nation. Scott Tucker, a Republican candidate for state representative on Chicago's North Side, seized on the issue and organized a protest from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at Western Avenue and Addison Street. It's the only one scheduled in Illinois.
"It's a safety rally, not a protest," Fagel said. "It's safety that we're after."
Fagel and Tucker are among the growing chorus insisting red-light cameras are "political cash cows" that are more about civic revenues than road safety.
"We call them ATMs - automatic ticketing machines," Fagel said.
Fagel and Tucker claim Chicago typically cuts the timing of its yellow lights from the federally mandated three seconds to two and a half seconds or less, in part to increase violations at camera-ticketing intersections. Fagel has even posted videos on YouTube at MrBFagel's Channel claiming to show Chicago traffic lights with shortened yellows. They state that actually makes the intersections more dangerous as drivers race to get into them before a yellow light turns red. Fagel said Chicago raised $45 million on automated red-light tickets in 2008.
"We are the camera capital of the United States," he said.
Tucker is running on a platform calling for the General Assembly to pass a ban on automated ticketing.
The cameras have come under increased scrutiny and criticism in the suburbs, as in the recent Daily Herald series and in the removal of such cameras around Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg after a public outcry.
"They start dissuading people from shopping there," Fagel said.
Fagel has been fighting red-light cameras in Buffalo Grove, which is set to take up the issue again Feb. 22. He said he hopes the Chicago "safety rally" causes enough of a stir to help such protests spread to the suburbs.