Mayor Lori Lightfoot is implementing a lower threshold for Chicago speed camera tickets in what she claims is an effort to combat a rise in the city’s traffic deaths.
Plan for Chicago Speed Camera Tickets
The plan to implement a lower threshold for Chicago speed camera tickets will kick off with a 44-day grace period. Starting on January 15, 2021, drivers who are caught traveling six to ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit will begin getting warning notices in the mail. This grace period will end on March 1, when drivers exceeding the speed limit at that rate will start receiving $35.00 tickets. If they have no prior history of speeding, however, they will first receive an additional warning notice.
Lightfoot’s office said that this a plan that the City Council authorized under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel but never implemented. The authorization allows for cameras positioned around parks and schools to issue $35.00 Chicago speed camera tickets to motorists caught driving six to ten miles per hour over the speed limit. The fine for driving eleven miles per hour or more over the speed limit will remain $100.00.
There are 161 speed cameras in Chicago, though 73 cameras near shuttered schools and playgrounds have been “disabled” since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving only 88 cameras in operation.
Mayor Defends Decision to “Keep Communities Safe”
Though critics have noted that the mayor’s move on Chicago speed camera tickets contradicts her campaign promise to roll back the city’s financial reliance on fees and fines against low-income people, she has defended her decision as necessary to “keep communities safe.”
Chicago had 120 traffic deaths through the end of November 2020 – 31 more than in the same period in 2019, a 35 percent increase. Fatal crashes involving people in motor vehicles are up 78 percent, from 45 to 80. This increased death rate has occurred despite fewer cars being on the road. City traffic data shows that Chicago drivers are traveling an average of eight percent faster than in 2019.
“We’ve seen, unfortunately over the course of this year … speed-related accidents and deaths go up exponentially. And we can’t ignore that reality,” Lightfoot told reporters last year. “The hope is that, by being more aggressive in citing people for speeding around schools, around parks, that we’re going to actually lower the amount of traffic-related accidents and fatalities.
“Unlike fines for non-moving violations that … drove people into bankruptcy, people have control over whether they speed or not,” she added. “The signs are very well marked. And it’s my hope that people will take this as an opportunity to check their speed because we can’t afford to have more people injured and more lives lost.”
Many Cameras Facing Only One Direction
Some lawmakers claim that the real problem is insufficient coverage at speed camera locations.
During Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi’s appearance before the City Council in October, aldermen demanded to know why the city was endangering people and leaving revenue from Chicago speed camera tickets on the table by failing to position cameras in both directions. Ald. Anthony Beale noted that the city has roughly 50 speed camera locations that are “covered by a camera facing in only one direction.”
This means that only drivers with front plates can be captured on camera and automatically mailed speed camera tickets with photographic evidence of a violation. In 2019 alone, Beale claimed, Chicago’s top fifteen speed camera locations had “over 83,000 speeding vehicles” that did not have front plates, letting those drivers get off without being ticketed. Beale said that if the city installed cameras in both directions, there would be no need to “nickel and dime” motorists by ticketing those going six to ten miles per hour over the limit.
Biagi said that she would “have to check that number,” but defended the crackdown.
“What we know from the data is that folks who get a ticket, 80 percent of them don’t get another ticket for another year,” Biagi said. “Meaning it’s working. That’s the idea. We want to lower speeds. It’s focused on safety. We feel that this is a way to really reduce those speeds and reduce fatalities.”
Speeding Common in Serious Accidents
In addition to the cost of Chicago speed camera tickets, drivers throughout the state who travel 35 miles per hour or more over the speed limit can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, subjecting them to additional fines and up to a year in jail. But despite the serious consequences associated with this dangerous activity, drivers continue to speed, often with tragic results.
The faster a vehicle travels, the longer it takes a driver to react to other vehicles and obstacles on the road, making a traffic accident more likely. Speeding also increases the kinetic energy absorbed upon impact, leading to far more forceful collisions, raising the likelihood of significant injury or death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding is the chief contributory cause in about 25 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Are You the Victim of a Chicago Speeding Accident?
Analysts have found that speed is one of the leading factors in Chicago car accidents, placing the city’s residents at risk. If you are the innocent victim of a Chicago speeding accident and want to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries, please do what so many others have done before you and reach out to the speeding accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. Our Chicago car accident lawyers have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation of success needed to get you and your family the justice you deserve.