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Elk Grove to deactivate 2 red right cams to test safety impact
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 9/15/2010 12:20 AM | Updated: 9/15/2010 8:59 AM

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Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson triumphantly announced Tuesday that accidents and citations are down at intersections with red-light cameras in the village.

At Tuesday night's village board meeting, Johnson released the 2010 crash data from the village's automated red-light camera enforcement program that's been in place since 2008.

At the intersection of Devon Avenue and Busse Road, red-light crashes have dropped to the point that officials plan to deactivate the two cameras at that location for six months starting Jan. 1, 2011.

Crashes at that intersection dropped from 31 in 2007 to 21 in 2009 and were down to 8 by June 2010.

"What we want to do is take that intersection that stabilized, where the risk has been eliminated or minimized, and put it to the test," Johnson said. "State of Illinois has given us permission to do this."

Officials will review the accident data in July 2011. If crashes continue to drop, those cameras will be removed permanently, Johnson said.

But if accidents increase significantly, the cameras will be reactivated, he added.

"My hope, if the stabilization continues, is in a few years all the cameras are gone (from every intersection)," Johnson said.

The village has cameras installed at eight locations with the highest number of crashes - southbound Busse Road at Higgins/Oakton Street, westbound Higgins/Oakton at Busse, north and southbound Busse at Devon Avenue, northbound Rohlwing Road at Biesterfield Road, westbound Arlington Heights Road at Higgins, eastbound Biesterfield at I-290 entrance ramp and eastbound Landmeier Road at Higgins.

Accidents at Oakton and Busse dropped from 86 in 2007 to 54 in 2009 and were down to 26 by June 2010. At two intersections - Biesterfield at Rohlwing and at I-290 - where there is ongoing construction, the data may not be as accurate even though the number of crashes has decreased, Johnson said.

Officials did not provide crash data for certain intersections in 2008 and 2009 because only half a year's worth of data was available since the cameras were installed.

Johnson said the data shows rear-end crashes, which some experts say increase with red-light cameras, also have gone down from 105 in 2007 to 85 in 2009 at three intersections.

"Almost 20 percent, that's a large statistical difference," Johnson said.

The total number of citations issued for red-light camera violations dropped from 13,508 during the first six months of 2009 to 9,534 for that same period in 2010, 29 percent lower.

"We are changing drivers' habits, and we are changing that for good," he said. "We don't mind making less money. We want safety first."

In many cases, the actual number of citations issued were considerably lower than the number of video violations recorded - nearly 40 percent lower.

That's because not every ticket issued by the camera vendor is approved by Elk Grove police.

"If someone makes an attempt to stop, if it's done safely, Elk Grove Village won't issue a citation," Police Cmdr. Chuck Walsh said.

Drivers are also given a break for close calls and mitigating weather conditions such as snow and ice, he added.