Proposed law would impose $100 fines on speed-camera evidence

  • State Sen. Terry Link

    State Sen. Terry Link Associated Press

Published: 3/26/2009 12:19 PM | Updated: 3/26/2009 6:44 PM

SPRINGFIELD - A suburban lawmaker insists his plan allowing the suburbs to use cameras to ticket speeding drivers is all about safety.

But one of the leading companies in the speed camera business says in corporate documents it's relying on money from new speed cameras to boost profits.

The proposal pending in the state Senate would permit local governments to issue tickets of up to $100 based on speed camera evidence. Drivers would not be issued a moving violation.

"Everyone keeps saying that this is just a moneymaker. First of it all, it's safety, simple as that as far as I'm concerned," said state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who sponsored the plan. "We can't have a policeman at every corner, at every intersection, along every strip of the road stopping people, so this is another alternative of doing this."

Initially only city and county roads would be eligible, but Link hopes to expand to state and interstate highways next.

Redflex, an Australian company that is the largest provider of digital red light and speed enforcement services in North America, is "aggressively" pushing more states to allow speed camera enforcement in an effort to improve corporate revenues, according to its 2008 annual report.

"We expect to see the growth in the USA market continue. As the clear leader in that potential multibillion-dollar market which is less than 10 percent penetrated at this stage, the opportunities for growth are enormous," said Graham Davie, Redflex CEO, in a letter included in the company's annual report.

Municipalities hire companies like Redflex to operate their red light cameras and, if Link's plan becomes law, speed cameras.

In 2008, Redflex's net profit for the U.S. was $10.6 million with a 44 percent increase in camera installations. Redflex has red light contracts with 29 Illinois cities, including Naperville, Aurora, Elgin, Geneva and Carol Stream.

Redspeed, a Redflex competitor based in Lombard, has donated nearly $40,000 to Illinois politicians since 2006, including $1,000 to Link and $3,000 to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Redflex has not donated to Illinois politicians, according to the State Board of Elections.

Link said it would be up to each municipality to decide which contractor to use for speed cameras. The plan requires signs be posted ahead of any area monitored by speed cameras. But each city would decide whether and how much leeway to give drivers.

"I'm sure there's going to be some discretion here. If somebody's going 66 in a 65, I don't think that's who this is going to go after," said state Rep. Joseph Lyons, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the plan in the House.

But even if cities do go after those drivers, Link says it will be worth it, casting aside widespread commuter complaints about such enforcement efforts. "Nothing is perfect. But the point is, when we can save one life or we can save tens of thousands of lives, this is what our job is here to do," Link said.

In 2005, 525 Illinois drivers were killed in crashes attributable to speed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Link's plan recently cleared a Senate committee and awaits a full Senate vote. It would then go to the House.