Aldermen reject offer to raise speed camera ticket threshold in Chicago to 10 mph

CHICAGO (SCS) — On Wednesday, the City Council rejected an attempt to raise the threshold for issuing speed camera tickets in Chicago to 10 mph, from the 6 mph minimum included by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her 2021 budget.

Aldus. Anthony Beale (9th) has been trying for more than a year to overturn the lower threshold, but Lightfoot and his allies had successfully blocked a full council vote until Wednesday, when only 18 aldermen voted in favor of the proposed repeal the lower threshold, with 26 aldermen voting against the ordinance. Beale needed 26 votes to pass it.

Ahead of the vote, Lightfoot personally urged aldermen not to lower the speed camera threshold to 10 mph.

“We need to take more steps to slow people down,” she said. “Increased speeds encourage speeders to do more destruction to our residents.”

But Beale said the mayor’s push to keep the lower threshold in place was ‘not about safety’, but about keeping tens of millions of dollars in revenue that speed camera tickets generate with the 6mph threshold .

He said raising the threshold to 10 mph would bring real relief to Chicago motorists already burdened by gas prices well above $5 a gallon.

“It’s a real relief here in the city of Chicago for residents who can least afford to keep paying those tickets,” Beale said. “Don’t think it’s about security, because it’s not. The data shows it’s not about security, it’s about 100,000% revenue .”

Nevertheless, the majority of Beale’s colleagues on the city council sided with Lightfoot, ending a debate that has dragged on for more than a year. Beale first presented his proposal in March 2021, just weeks after the lower threshold was put in place.

Wednesday’s vote came a month after the city council’s finance committee voted 16-15 to raise the threshold to 10 mph, but Lightfoot and his allies used a parliamentary maneuver to postpone a final vote of the full city councilgiving the mayor more time to muster the votes he needed to defeat him.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot stopped threatening to veto if the city council had voted to raise the threshold – saying she wouldn’t “stand idly by” and allow Council to “do something that I know will be detrimental to the health and welfare of the city”.

“It makes no sense for us to increase speed around parks and schools when we know what the horrific consequences are for pedestrians and other drivers,” Lightfoot said Monday.

The number of speeding tickets issued quickly skyrockets after the new lower threshold took effect in March 2021, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in fines last year.

Lightfoot and his top aides have spent months arguing that the 6mph threshold is a safety issue, and the mayor said it was “really unconscionable” for aldermen to consider raising it to 10mph.

Mayor and Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi argued that the lower threshold would reduce traffic accidents and deaths.

Biagi told aldermen last month that the city had seen a 15% increase in road fatalities in 2021, compared to 2020, and that this increase was partly related to speed. She said the 174 road deaths in 2021 were the highest in a decade.

“People drive fast, they drive furious, they drive distracted, they drive under the influence and they drive without a seatbelt,” Biagi said. “Anything we can do to get people to slow down is something we want to make sure happens in our city. It’s going to save lives.”

Biagi said a University of Illinois at Chicago study last year found the city’s speed camera program prevented 208 injury crashes over a three-year period from 2016 to 2018, a reduction by 12% compared to the years 2010 to 2012, before speed. cameras were installed in Chicago. She said the study also found that the number of serious accidents was reduced by 15%, meaning 36 fewer people not seriously injured or killed during this time.

Despite Lightfoot and Biagi’s claims, CBS 2 investigators found that traffic crashes have actually increased in Chicago since the 6 mph threshold was put in place last year.

The city recorded 142 road deaths citywide – including 9 fatal crashes and 10 deaths near speed cameras – in the 12 months before the change, and 181 in the 12 months following – including 13 fatal crashes and 13 deaths near speed cameras. speed cameras during this period.

After months of discussing the need to keep the lower threshold in place for road safety, Lightfoot acknowledged earlier this week that it was also about revenue, saying returning to the 10 mph threshold would cost the city nearly $45 million in funding for public safety programs. , city infrastructure upgrades, and Safe Passage workers near schools and parks.


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