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Emanuel Pushes State To Approve Speed Cameras

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel urges state lawmakers to approve legislation allowing the city to install speed cameras. (Credit: CBS)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel urges state lawmakers to approve legislation allowing the city to install speed cameras. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 11/07/11 – 6:23 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making a big push for final state House passage of a law that will allow the City of Chicago to use some of its red light cameras to catch speeders as well.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield on Tuesday, and the House will take up the bill. The state Senate has already approved the legislation

At the city’s 911 Center, 1451 W. Madison St., Mayor Emanuel surrounded himself with state legislators, medical professionals and others to call on lawmakers to send Gov. Pat Quinn legislation that will allow the city to use cameras to catch speeders in schools and parks.

The Illinois Senate has already approved legislation allowing for speed cameras in Chicago. The Illinois House is expected to take up the proposal this week during the second week of the fall veto session.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

Emanuel insisted the City is not trying to use the speed cams as revenue generators. He says they are part of an overall strategy to protect children.

“It’s not a one-trick pony – speed cameras, that’s it. It’s curfew, ministers, crossing guards, cameras inside schools and speed cameras outside schools,” Emanuel said. “If you follow the law, you’ve got nothing to worry about, simple. As you follow the law, this is not a problem. If you break the law, obviously you’ve got a concern. And all I’m saying is just don’t do it near a school or park.”

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine asked the mayor if he had any proof that speed cameras would save lives and not just make money for the city.

Emanuel pointed to city statistics that showed pedestrian fatalities near intersections went down 70 percent after red light cameras were installed.

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s before and after study of the city’s 109 red light cameras found 53 fatalities – 26 of them pedestrians – before the cameras started snapping pictures and triggering tickets, compared to 21 fatalities – 6 of them pedestrians – after the cameras went in.

The mayor brought in lawmakers promising their votes for the new cameras this week, calling them part of a strategy which included more crossing guards, safe passage funds, enforcing a curfew and new cameras inside schools.

“If all we did was one thing, there’s a lot of questions to be raised. This is five separate things to make sure our children are safe,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel said he didn’t care if the cameras made any money, only that they saved lives.

State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), who has expressed concerns about the use of speed cameras, said, “I certainly don’t question his commitment to children’s safety. That being said, to sort of position yourself as this not being at all about money, I don’t think passes the smell test to most constituents.”

Especially when you see another study, which the Mayor didn’t talk about, obtained by the man behind the website “The Expired Meter.”

Mike Brockway’s “The Expired Meter” website has the results of a trial run of seven red light cameras temporarily enabled to detect speeders in April and May and he said the study shows those cameras alone would have generated more than $100 million in speeding ticket revenue.

That study found speeders were 20, 30, even 60 times more common than red light runners, who are already contributing millions to city coffers.

And remember, the test covered just a handful of cameras.

Under the mayor’s proposal, speed cameras would be set up in designated safety zones within a 1/8 mile radius of schools and parks and would ticket cars going more than five miles per hour over the speed limit.

Before enforcement with speed cameras, the city would conduct a 30-day public education campaign to inform drivers of the new speed cameras. Intersections with the cameras would also have signage informing drivers that the speed cameras are there.

“The goal is to change people’s behavior. You have education, engineering and enforcement and if you don’t have the enforcement, the other two aren’t as effective,” CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein said.

The mayor said his goal on Monday was to try to change the focus of the debate.

“I also like to remind people – because this debate seems to have a funny turn – the victims here are the children that are hit by cars that are speeding, not those who are speeding and get caught,” Emanuel said.

Regardless, if the legislation is approved, the number of traffic cameras in the city could skyrocket.

Right now, the city has red light cameras in 79 locations within a 1/8 of a mile of a school or park. Those are the cameras Emanuel said he wants to modify to catch speeders and they cover about 3 percent of the city.

But the legislation would also allow entirely new cameras close to schools and parks and a Chicago Tribune analysis of the proposed legislation to allow speed cameras in the city showed the legislation would allow at least 47 percent of the city to be covered by the cameras – not including areas around colleges and universities.

Any motorist busted by a camera would be sent a ticket in the mail. Sponsors said the tickets would be sent to the owner of the car caught speeding. The cameras would only take photos of the speeding car’s license plate, not the driver.

The owner would be subject to a $100 fine and five unpaid fines would result in the loss of the owner’s driver’s license.

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