This will surprise no one who has read this newspaper with any regularity in the past, but we’re not exactly thrilled that the village of Riverside is dipping its toes in the red-light camera waters again.
A little more than a year ago, this newspaper published a fairly comprehensive look at red-light cameras along Harlem Avenue from North Avenue to Cermak Road. And the common denominator our investigation found was that the cameras don’t address safety so much as they address a way to raise revenue for municipalities — and one company in particular, which has cornered the suburban Chicago market — by fining the hell out of motorists.
That the fines don’t affect your driving record or insurance rates — you’d face stricter consequences being stopped for speeding or running a stop sign — are a dead giveaway that the goal of these cameras is almost purely revenue.
Whether the cameras have any impact on reducing crashes resulting from red-light running is questionable, but they do catch and penalize people making illegal right-hand turns on red — that violation accounting for virtually all of the citations issued at intersections where these cameras are located.
People turning right on red are not involved in dangerous crashes, or many crashes at all. It is a problem that didn’t need solving by mailing people $100 fines.
Where in Riverside might there be enough traffic to make it worth a red-light camera company’s while — because that’s who is really making out here, the red-light company — to place one of these devices?
First Avenue, at Forest/Ridgewood.
Make no mistake, it’s a dangerous intersection. There have been serious, sometimes fatal, crashes near and at that particular intersection.
Whether a red-light camera would have prevented many of those crashes, often involving impaired drivers or people driving at excessive speeds, is doubtful.
Many municipalities argue that the red-light cameras, such as the ones at Harlem and Cermak, really don’t penalize residents, who know they are there and are wily enough to avoid tripping the shutter. The cameras mostly ensnare out-of-towners, the argument goes, so the joke’s on them, ha ha.
But put cameras at First and Forest/Ridgewood and what you will end up doing is mailing tickets to the parents of Riverside-Brookfield High School students who are turning right onto Ridgewood Road from First Avenue while dropping their kids off in the morning or picking them up in the afternoon.
And you will fine Riverside residents heading home after work or visitors seeking to sample the splendors of Riverside’s quaint downtown, turning slowly to the right onto Forest Avenue from First Avenue.
And you will be mailing $100 citations to many of the visitors heading to Brookfield Zoo. With visitors already ponying up between $16 and $22 a person, plus another $14 for parking, they — and the zoo, which is going to hear the complaints — will just adore the village of Riverside for the extra parting gift.
Red-light cameras are a cash grab. Don’t do it.