Local Editorials

Our view: Red-light cameras as cash cows

There’s nothing like receiving a nasty-gram in the mail saying that your car was caught on video breaking the law, so now you must pay a $100 fine.

Unfortunately, many local towns have found the lure of easy, practically effortless cash generation too much to resist. Although government officials prefer to emphasize reduced accidents at some intersections, the fact remains that red-light cameras are as much about raising money as they are about public safety.

When the video cameras also focus on drivers who fail to come to a complete stop before making a right turn on a red light – as is the case in Fox River Grove, which has a profitable camera at the intersection of Route 14 and Route 22 – it becomes more of a blatant money grab.

The system makes no distinction between a driver at a deserted intersection in the middle of the night who might not have come to a complete stop, and a scofflaw who blows a red light. Both pay $100, even though an actual police officer might have looked at one infraction and seen nothing.

Almost 8,000 people received $100 tickets during the 2011-12 fiscal year in Fox River Grove, generating almost $500,000 in revenue.

That kind of enforcement might have some effect on safety, but it mostly helps municipalities pad their bottom line, while taking money out of the pockets of people at a time when many already are struggling to make ends meet.

The video surveillance also further alienates people from government in general.

Most drivers receiving these violations are deemed to not have come to a complete stop before making a right turn on red. That’s technically a moving violation under the strict letter of the law, but it’s also something that’s easy to do, especially at a deserted intersection late at night.

If red-light cameras are here to stay, tickets for turning right on red should be outlawed. Drivers are taxed enough without facing another de facto tax imposed by the towns through which they drive.

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