Kane County ready to put new limits on red light cameras

Published: 9/27/2010 4:21 PM

Red light cameras in Kane County may soon have a three-year expiration date if county board members adopt rule changes proposed by transportation officials Monday.

The new set of rules emphasizes the idea that red light cameras should only be used as a temporary solution for intersections with proven histories of accidents stemming from drivers running red lights. The ultimate answer for such intersections is improved engineering and attention to signage, light timing and other "countermeasures."

The proposed changes come in response to a series of public hearings where more than 70 percent of comments received by the county reviled the cameras as nothing more than a way for government to make money off motorists.

"This has been a long time coming," said Tom Rickert, the county's deputy transportation director. "The focus will now be on answering the question, 'Is there a red light running safety problem? And, if there is, what is the cause?' "

Permits for red light cameras are already reviewed annually for consideration of whether or not the cameras are working and are still needed. That annual review would continue under the new rules. Regardless of what the cameras accomplish, however, no camera could exist for more than three years.

Citations given during right turns made at a red light, which are perhaps the most publicly-despised aspect of the cameras, would be banned under the new rules with only a couple exceptions. First, there must be documented crashes occurring between cars or between cars and pedestrians at the intersection as a result of motorists turning right on red. Second, an attempt must be made to resolve that problem with a "No Right on Red" sign. If that doesn't work, then red-light camera violations for turning right on red may be considered.

The county board's Transportation Committee unanimously approved the rule changes Monday. The changes will eventually make their way to the full county board. They will arrive with County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay's blessing.

"To be totally frank about it, this was meant to be a safety tool, and it still can be a safety tool," McConnaughay said. "But quite frequently it becomes a revenue generator racket for a lot of the local governments. This does a really good job at setting up a criteria that keeps local governments who are interested in adopting this for revenue generating purposes ... it really puts forward standards that make it really tough to do that."