Weekend open thread: Speed cameras, yea or nay?

Watch this video of a small experiment conducted by Volkswagen in Sweden where people who sped funded a lottery that those who didn’t speed were automatically entered into.


Watch The Speed Camera Lottery on YouTube.

Will speed cameras successfully reduce speeding and injuries in Chicago? Would you support such a speed camera lottery? Do you ever think the speed camera lottery would “die”, meaning that people would stop speeding and the lottery would no longer have revenue?

Here’s some background reading on speed cameras.


The way Mayor Emanuel is now handling the issue, and the Chicago Tribune’s requests and interviews for more information is despicable, damaging to the real issue that people are being hurt while walking, cycling, and driving, and against his own claims to operate City Hall transparently.

During the 90-minute interview, Emanuel repeatedly accused the newspaper of downplaying the safety benefits of cameras by ignoring a city study that he said shows red light cameras have reduced nearby fatalities by 60 percent.

“I’ve had people call you with it, and you refuse to publish it,” he said.

“If the report is wrong you should go analyze that report,” Emanuel said.

But his press secretary later said the report could not be provided to the newspaper because key portions were “confidential.”

The Emanuel administration used similar language to reject the vast majority of the newspaper’s Oct. 27 Freedom of Information Act requests for any administration records and correspondence that would explain the underpinnings of the speed camera plan. Read the full story. Read the transcript.

The Chicago Tribune is trying to determine why the Mayor is making a big push to have speed cameras in Chicago.

Emanuel’s truncated disclosure of speed camera documents makes it difficult to shed light on the origins of the speed camera policy. The mayor has declared he was moved to act by the pleas of police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, the two officials most responsible for school safety.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that both the police chief and the head of schools came to me and said that we have a problem that is distinct from other cities, I would not have pushed something forward just because I’m looking for another unpopular issue to tackle,” Emanuel said last week.

Regardless of his current intentions or actions, which I hope he corrects immediately, first by releasing the information the newspaper is requesting, there is research that shows that speed cameras reduce the incidence of speeding and the amount of speeding overage. And it’s clear that speeding is a major cause of crashes.

I’d also like to hear questions you have about speed cameras that no one may have answered yet.

Photo by Katherine of Chicago. 

9 thoughts on “Weekend open thread: Speed cameras, yea or nay?”

  1. Yea! It’s a clear win for safer streets. But it’s unfortunate this is necessary. If drivers would just follow the law and stop killing and maiming people on our streets, we wouldn’t have to have this conversation.

    I’d support the lottery, but I also think we all win if the ticket revenue is invested in redesigning our streets to be safer.

  2. Hey Carfree,

    With all due respect, speed cameras are not a clear win for safety. At best the jury is still out in respect to this. There is a full spectrum of studies out. Some of which show there is a safety improvement and other studies that show no effect.

    Locally, CDOT has a report that shows the red light cameras essentially had no effect to the number of crashes that occurred at red light camera intersections.

    So, “clear”? No. Maybe is perhaps a better word.

    But here’s the thing. If the city is sooooo committed to safety, why haven’t they done everything they can to improve safety that isn’t revenue based? Why hasn’t ANY of the millions of dollars in RLC revenue ever gone toward improving safety? Not one dollar of RLC revenue has gone into analyzing the root causes of problem intersections or re-engineering said intersections. Not one dollar for public education on driving safety. Every single dollar of RLC revenue has gone into the city’s general fund.

    Why are those so few  speed limit signs on city streets? Why hasn’t the Mayor called for cops to patrol school zones for speeders for the last year if there is such a crisis? Why are pavement markings so worn out making it hard for motorists to drive as safely as possible?

    Why hasn’t the city conducted the federally mandated traffic studies of all city streets that are required by the NTSB every 5 years? CDOT has not done one of these on any street in decades by their own admission?

    Why hasn’t the city looked into dynamic speed displays which, in real time, tells drivers how fast they are going so they can adjust their speed in real time? This is being done in hundreds of cities across the country with great success.

    Why is the Mayor’s office refusing to release public records to the Tribune regarding speed camera decision making? If speed cameras are so awesome and promote safety why doesn’t the Mayor release all this information?

    Are you catching my drift here?

    Everyone have a great Saturday. It’s a beautiful sunny day.

    Steve, good work as usual.


    1. Couldn’t agree with your comments more.  If it was about safety, these things would be done.  When I first moved here, I remember thinking, there are no speed limit signs.  It’s rare to see one.
      Traffic light timing is horrible,and nothing is ever done about that.
      This is clearly about money, and nothing but money.  Crashes will likely increase as drives slam on the brakes to avoid a ticket.

  3. What are your thoughts about third-party involvement in enforcement issues? I think it’s pretty clear that speed cameras will reduce speeds. What is less clear is that a for-profit private entity running the cameras and taking a slice for themselves is a good idea, or that these type of public-private partnerships always result in a net gain to the public good.

    You see it with the parking meter deal, the city wanted greater revenues but didn’t have the courage to be honest about it in advance. So they sold the meter deal as a savings to enforcement, as providing better service and nicer meters. Then it quickly became obvious that was being sold and what was reality were two different things and that the city gave up a lot of control for some short term financial gains.

  4. The amount of people whom I’ve talked to who, at least subconsciously, think that speeded is a right of some sort, boggles my mind.

    There is an underlying ideal at work in which driving is a right, not a privilege. Beyond, that there is a right to drive how they want.

    I’m a firm believer that over half the people on the road shouldn’t be allowed to drive, at least how they drive now.

    Some people don’t understand how dangerous cars can be, and they don’t want to hear it.

    1. Exactly.  I wish we had stricter testing and renewal standards for licenses, as in some other countries.  But then there’s the problem of so many unlicensed drivers (whether they never had a valid license at all or are driving under suspension or revocation).  I know from police officer friends that this is a BIG problem.

      1. It’s easy to get away with driving without a license. I have had family members do it on multiple occasions without more than a slap on the wrist. The courts also sometimes fall under the idea that driving is a right and will be very lenient on those who drive with a suspended license.

        Some things we have to be tough on as a society. This is one of them.

        1. Right, “extenuating circumstances” like driving to work can actually lessen a suspension. When my license was suspended, for having too many uncontested speeding tickets in a specific time period, I appealed to try to lessen the suspension to be able to drive to school in Sugar Grove, IL. I was denied – I got rides to and from school and work 6 days a week for 3 months. 

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