Local police and elected officials gave resounding support for the continued use of red-light cameras at Kane County's first public hearing on the future of the devices.
Their voices dominated a meeting in which they were pretty much the only people to show up. And when the first nonelected official spoke against the cameras, he was quickly denigrated.
Ronald Rogalla of Geneva spoke from personal experience as a driver who has received a ticket from a red-light camera. He spoke of the need for a better appeals process, better consideration of weather conditions in handing out tickets and lower fines to demonstrate the cameras are really about safety and not about making money. He also said he could see how the cameras actually create accidents by triggering people to slam on their breaks to avoid getting a ticket.
"I'm very much upset and kind of offended at all these cameras popping up," he said. "I'm avoiding these intersection with these cameras, which means I'm also avoiding all the businesses at these corners. I've also decided that I'm not making right turns on red anymore. If people beep at me, that's fine. I'm just going to sit there. When they turn off the red-light cameras, then I'll make my right turns again."
Sheriff Pat Perez spoke next and said his personal experience of being struck by a driver running a stop sign and all the traffic accidents he's seen over the years told him Rogalla didn't know what he was talking about.
"Are you kidding me?" Perez said. "Has that man lost his mind? I've been at too many accidents for me to listen to nonsense like that be spewed out of someone's mouth."
Perez said he believes people receiving tickets when turning right on a red light have stirred up most of the public angst about the cameras. However, Perez said he believes that angst is misplaced. And any talk about the cameras actually causing more accidents is simply not true. Perez said anyone who doesn't come to a complete stop at a red light before turning right puts everyone in the lanes of oncoming traffic in danger. And anyone rear-ended because they slammed on their breaks was most likely traveling too fast for conditions, while the person behind them was following too closely.
"If there is better driver behavior, there will be a reduction in accidents," Perez said.
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns bolstered Perez's testimony by submitting a red-light camera ticketing information for the record of the public hearing. Burns said he's received less than seven phone calls and 40 e-mails from people complaining about the cameras. Data shows only 4 percent of more than 900 tickets issued since the city's cameras came online is for people making a right turn on a red light.
Elgin resident Fredrick Von Heimburg followed Burns and said if police enforced the law that says drivers can't enter an intersection to turn left before it's clear to turn, there would be less anger directed at tickets generated by the cameras for left turns.
"Those who are complaining about the red-light cameras feel they are entitled," Von Heimburg said. "There are too many idiots who are going to drive any way they want to. You wouldn't get a fine, you wouldn't get arrested if you obeyed the law."