Daily Herald
Des Plaines, you have been warned: Red-light cameras are coming
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/26/2010 12:05 AM

Des Plaines is moving ahead with installing automated red-light cameras despite Mayor Marty Moylan's request that officials reconsider the program.

Officials initially said the mounted traffic cameras would be placed at two accident-heavy intersections - Mount Prospect Road at Touhy Avenue, and River at Golf roads.

Yet, the intersection of Golf and Rand roads, with 16 accidents in 2008, is where the city's first red-light cameras will soon be installed. It's unclear exactly what criteria was used to pick that location.

The cameras will capture vehicles making improper right and left turns without stopping. Violators will receive warnings before $100 citations are issued, which they can fight in Des Plaines' monthly traffic court at City Hall.

Red-light cameras are expected to be installed at a second intersection, but it is not clear where.

The Des Plaines Police Department originally developed a list of top 20 accident-heavy intersections. In it, the No. 1 location for accidents was identified as the Cumberland Circle, where there were 65 accidents reported in 2008 but where there are no signals.

Second on the list was Touhy Avenue at Mount Prospect Road, with 26 accidents in 2008.

Lombard-based vendor RedSpeed Illinois studied accident data from those intersections to determine which were the most dangerous and what percentage of crashes were caused by red-light violations. The results have not been made public.

Des Plaines Police Chief Jim Prandini, who could not be reached Wednesday, has said safety is the department's top priority in deciding which intersections should have red-light cameras.

In July 2009, Moylan said he would ask the city council to review the photo enforcement program after seeing new information revealed through a Daily Herald investigation.

The Daily Herald series "Seeing Red" raised questions about whether the nearly 84 cameras in 28 North, West and Northwest suburbs are located at intersections where they will improve safety or are placed where they would raise the most revenue.

A controversial aspect of the surveillance program is that the majority of tickets are for right turns on red, a violation that is less dangerous than going straight through or turning left on red, experts say.

Moylan, who voted against the automated red-light photo enforcement program when he was 2nd Ward alderman, said he asked a city committee to review the issue but there was "no interest in making any changes."

The previous city council authorized the automated red-light camera enforcement program in April 2008. Last March, the same council selected RedSpeed to administer the program.

"Even the new council didn't express any interest in changing the outcome," Moylan said. "Right now we have a contract with the camera company and if we back out we have to pay a penalty. So we're going to see how it goes and adjust from there."

At a recent city council meeting, 5th Ward Alderman James Brookman suggested the city council put the red-light camera question to voters to see if they want them.

If the council doesn't authorize an advisory referendum on the issue, Brookman promised he would circulate petitions to get enough signatures to put the question on a future ballot, not Nov. 2.