Safety is the goal; revenue is a byproduct
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (March 15, 2018) – “Everybody hears ‘red light camera,’ and they get freaked out. Nobody likes red light cameras,” said Lt. Al Phillips at the February 20 Committee of the Whole meeting. He was presenting to the Board and members of the public the reasoning behind Lansing Police Department’s interest in installing red light cameras at certain key intersections in Lansing.
Phillips cited three main benefits of red light cameras—
- They do change driver behavior. Studies show a 24% reduction in traffic fatalities in 14 cities that use red light cameras.
- They would improve overall safety in Lansing.
- They would improve LPD’s ability to monitor traffic and enforce speed limits in areas that are currently difficult—particularly the Torrence/I-80 intersection.
Phillips’ presentation included data about the intersections in Lansing where the most accidents have occurred between 2013–2016:
- Torrence and 176th Place (80)
- Wentworth and Ridge (78)
- Torrence and 173rd Street (74)
- Torrence and Ridge (65)
- Torrence and I-80 (52, including 1 fatality)
- Torrence and E 170th Street (50)
- Ridge and Burnham (47)
- Torrence and Thornton-Lansing Road (43)
- Torrence and 178th Street (42)
- Torrence and 177th Street (35)
LPD is using this data to determine a location in Lansing where a red light camera would have the greatest impact on safety. The Ridge and Torrence intersection no longer qualifies because of the reconfiguration that was completed in 2017, which has already improved traffic safety. Ridge and Burnham was one possibility under consideration, but Phillips believes installing cameras at Torrence and I-80 would be the best choice.
Since 8 of the 10 most dangerous intersections in Lansing include Torrence Avenue, and traffic enters Torrence from I-80 at high speeds, Phillips believes that red light cameras at Torrence and I-80 could influence driving behavior all along Torrence, perhaps diminishing the accident numbers at all the Torrence locations included in his report.
In addition, says Phillips, the Torrence/I-80 intersection is difficult to monitor and enforce. “There is no good way for an officer to set up on the intersection for enforcement,” he explained in an email. “Also, when people run the light, they are usually getting on the expressway, which makes it difficult for us to stop them.” Having a camera there would reduce the manpower needed to provide the evidence needed for ticketing violations.
The camera technology also includes a license plate reader, which would help solve crimes that involve offenders who enter the expressway through Lansing’s on-ramp.
Revenue generation is another benefit, but Phillips assured the Board that this is a byproduct, not a goal. “Taking money from our citizens—that is not our goal,” he said. “It is a byproduct. There will be funds that come in from this. But our goal is to get citizens not to run these red lights.”
It is the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) that makes the final decision on where red light cameras are installed. “They allow us to have input,” said Phillips, “but there are certain criteria that must be met. The vendor the Village chooses will also assist in the process.”
At the March 6 Village Board meeting, Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust took the next step and made a motion that the Board authorize a Request for Proposals for red light camera enforcement to improve safety and traffic flow in Lansing. The only dissenting vote came from Trustee Mike Skrbina, so the motion carried.
The Lansing Police Department will contact the three or four vendors available for a project like this and begin the process of gathering and reviewing their recommendations. The process is somewhat lengthy, and the decision is IDOT’s, so it may be a year or more before the Village receives word on whether red light cameras will be installed at all.
Lt. Phillips remains hopeful. “This is a great opportunity for us to make the Village safer,” he told the Board. “The bottom line is that the focus is on improving safety for everyone driving in the Village.”