Critics: Chicago Red-Light Cameras Cheat On Yellow Lights

(CBS) — Chicago’s Inspector General has just begun an investigation and audit into the operation of the city’s red-light camera system, CBS 2 has learned.

The review can’t come too soon for people who think the system is rigged against drivers.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports.

The intersection of Hollywood and Sheridan Road where north Lake Shore Drive ends is one of the city’s top 10 red-light revenue producers.

It’s where Batavia resident Robin Antonick got a $100 ticket for crossing into the intersection after the light had turned to red. He says the yellow light was deceptively short.

“It seemed like two seconds, but the ticket shows that it lasted three seconds. Even that is ridiculous,” Antonick says. “People are slamming their brakes on, not on the red lights, but on the yellow lights.”

Chicago’s yellow lights are indeed set for three seconds, just at the absolute federal minimum for safety. But in the most of the area’s suburbs, yellows last 4 seconds to 4.5 seconds.

Critics like Antonick suspect the shorter yellows are Chicago’s way of maximizing revenue, which amounts to some $70 million a year.

In addition to the Inspector General’s audit, some aldermen are calling for public hearings into the operation of the red-light camera system.

“By and large, you can talk to anybody on the street and there’s a lot of skepticism about the system,” 45th Ward Ald. John Arena says.

Antonick agrees that hearings into the system are needed.

“It’s not safe,” he says, “and it’s not honest.”

Since it came into being in 10 years ago, the red-light operation has raked in $375 million in fines.

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