Cook County delays River Forest red-light camera at Harlem and Lake

North and Harlem camera, however, is operating

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By Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

River Forest's controversial red-light camera program cannot become fully operational until an agreement over the use of Cook County land is approved by both parties, village officials said Monday.

The camera at Harlem Avenue and Lake Street has been inoperable since the program started in early January and will not be until an OK allowing that device to be installed on Forest Preserve Property, Assistant Village Administrator Michael Braiman said.

"We've been discussing one," said Braiman. He gave no timeline on when that device would become operational.

The North and Harlem camera, meanwhile, is working effectively, Police Chief Gregg Weiss said. The controversial program so far has pumped nearly $70,000 into village coffers.

More importantly, the effort may have helped improve people's driving habits. Last year 37 accidents took place within one block of North and Harlem avenues. So far this year, only four have occurred in the 7200 block of North Avenue, Weiss said.

In one incident, a person caused a fender bender when he closed his eyes for a moment. Another was a hit-and-run, a third was a side-swipe. A fourth was a rear-ender that took place when a driver slowed down to let someone pull out of the driveway at the Shell gas station at the corner of Harlem and North, Weiss said.

"In none of them did drivers slow down for the red-light cameras," Weiss said.

For those who are unfamiliar with how the process works, here's a recap:

Eastbound motorists can trigger the red-light camera on North Avenue when they make any moving violations when the light has turned red, such as running the light or failing to come to a complete stop before turning left or right onto Harlem. Because the light in question is on the southwest corner of that intersection, infractions fall under River Forest jurisdiction.

When the violation occurs, a 19-20 second snippet of video is shot, and the film goes to SafeSpeed, which runs the program for the village. The infractions are sent on to the police department, where police review the footage and decide whether to approve or reject the infraction.

If approved, the citation goes to the driver, who can review the film online or at a kiosk on the second floor of village hall. Drivers can pay the $100 ticket or appeal the citation in person or in writing. In either case, a hearing officer will review the video and determine if the ticket was issued correctly or in error.

Drivers who feel they still are in the right can request a hearing in traffic court in Maybrook, which they must set up themselves.

Violators have 21 days to pay up, or the fine doubles. Fines that aren't paid are sent to a collections agency, Weiss said. Once the fine is paid, the moving violation will not appear on a person's driving record.

"It would be like getting a parking ticket," Weiss said.

Since January, some 8,567 violations have been meted out to drivers who failed to completely stop before turning at the corner, Weiss said. As of early July, 2,469 infractions have been approved, another 1,027 rejected. Nearly 5,100 violators have received first notices and have not yet paid, Weiss said. That's not a surprising number considering that nearly 60,000 cars go through that intersection daily, Weiss noted.

Weiss also found that the red-light cameras are helpful in investigations. In one incident, a driver inadvertently dumped his cement on the roadway as he was making a turn onto southbound Harlem. Weiss said police were able to track down the responsible party, who ultimately paid the clean-up fee.

About 60 percent of the fines go to River Forest, which earmarks its money for replacing public safety vehicles and equipment, Braiman said.

The contractor will get monthly fees from a combination of maintenance, repair and violation processing per system, and payment processing fees. Safe Speed will withhold a portion of the revenue to cover those fees, and the village will receive anything left over. If the system doesn't produce enough revenue in a given month, the village won't have to pay.

The program was considered in 2009 but dropped after one firm — RedSpeed Illinois of Lombard — which the village was looking into would not consider a two-tier fine system. The choice was controversial because of then-trustee Catherine Adduci's relationship with Al Ronan, a chief lobbyist for RedSpeed.

Two years later, the issue was reevaluated at Weiss's behest and SafeSpeed was selected. Voting against the program was Susan Conti, a longtime critic of the program. Adduci, who abstained from the vote, is now village president.

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Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 4:17 PM

Thanks for the info! I always get paranoid in these kinds of intersections. (The ones in Oak Park that have one way with stops and the opposing without are just as treacherous, in my opinion, too.)


Posted: July 18th, 2013 2:43 PM

Uncontrolled intersections with no sign you're supposed to let the car on the right go first. But nobody knows that so they get treated as yields by most people. But they need signs, imo.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 2:19 PM

Since we're on the subject, what gives with all the intersections within River Forest that have absolutely no signage? There are dozens where there's no yield or stop sign. (A few in Oak Park, too.) I've no idea who has the right or way on these roads. By the time you see a car in the intersection, it's almost too late to stop if going the speed limit. Amazed there aren't more accidents.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 1:41 PM

July, I think increasing the yellow light time works because it gives drivers more time to slow down and stop. Depending on street and speed, sometimes it can be difficult to judge if you can stop in time when light turns yellow or if it is better to go through the light. There will always be impatient drivers who will try to beat the light, but most will stop. it is like how those timers on crosswalks that show actual seconds left work better than just the flashing don't walk sign.

July from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 1:20 PM

@Uncommonsense, extending the yellow light may also increase the likelihood of an accident as more cars will try to beat the red light. The studies also suggest a halo affect at nearby intersections due to the camera, so other approaches become safer. Not having an officer sit and monitor the intersection allows time better spent on high visibility patrol. More revenue for projects could equal no tax increase by the town using cameras. Only loser in this is the receiver of the ticket.

Brave New World  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 12:48 PM

I can't wait until they have speeding cameras so they can ticket everyone who goes 5mph over the speed limit. You know, in the name of public safety and all.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:50 AM

(3) Lund, A. K., Kyrychenko, S. Y., & Retting, R. A. (2009). Caution: A comment on Alena Erke's red light for red-light cameras? A meta-analysis of the effects of red-light cameras on crashes. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 41(4), 895-896. (4) Hye, A. (2013). Still red light for red light cameras? An update. Accident Analysis & Prevention.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:50 AM

References cited (by numbers). Check GoogleScholar for links & details: (1) Major 2005 study by Federal Highway Administration pub FHWA-HRT-05-048. An official summary is at . A plain English summary is at (2) Erke, A. 2009. Red light for red-light cameras?: A meta-analysis of the effects of red-light cameras on crashes. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 41(5)

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:48 AM

I recognize the motivation of local municipalities may be driven as much or more so by greed. (That's probably, in fact, their main motivation.) But their use is well supported by robust studies; red-light cameras on average produce safer intersections (especially once drivers become aware of their usage & improve their driving habits). (Now I have to get back to work?)

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:48 AM

Overall, therefore, all major & rigorous studies I have found appear to conclude that the use of red light cameras results in an improvement in overall safety (even if minor accidents also increase). The rather dramatic decrease in accidents in the North & Harlem intersection really do seem to support this conclusion.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:47 AM

This study was criticized (3), noting than many of the studies were of "questionable" merit. A 2013 (4) update agrees with this criticism, but concludes that red-light cameras result in, on average, a statistically significant 13% decrease in dangerous T-bone accidents (& 33% decrease in those causing major injuries) & an increase of 39% in rear-end accidents. The author also notes that the # of rear-end accidents decreases over time as drivers become familiar with the changed intersection....

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:45 AM

Because rear-end accidents are generally nowhere as dangerous (nor expensive) than T-bone accidents, the use of red-light cameras was found to increase overall safety in both red-light-camera and neighboring intersections. A later meta-analysis (2), however, questioned these results, claiming the 40% increase in rear-ends and 10% reduction in T-bones were not statistically significant, and that the safety claim wasn't supported. (cont'd)

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 11:44 AM

OK, I've glanced through some published studies that appear to have valid scientific methods, statistically supported claims, and underwent peer review. (References are cited by numbers here, and listed in next post). And note I'm not a traffic-science expert! The original 2005 study (1) was a major Federal Highway Administration study, which concluded that (as prior poster noted) red-light camera intersections result in "decreased right-angle (T-bone) crashes and increased rear end ones."

July from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 9:40 AM

Once again world class reporting by the WJ. And of course readers comprehension. The article says only four accidents this year, none due to braking for the camera. Revenue yes, safety yes, read the rules of the road and no citation. It is that simple. Get a ticket and the whole world is against you and every one is a crook. Live on Macinaw island and you won't have to worry about red light cameras.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 9:39 AM

Phil, google it. Rear end crashes increase while T-bone crashes typically decrease. Pick your poison. The point is the cameras don't necessarily make the intersection safer because of unintended consequences. I've also seen some saying longer yellow lights actually reduced redlight running and accidents, but of course that simple solution won't make the village money.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 9:27 AM

Not trying to inflame things. But can you point me to "the studies"? I'd like to see some that are conducted using proper statistical procedures. (Most such municipal and civic-group studies aren't done to scientific standards*) *Note I made this up this claim, hence the lack of a cited reference.)

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 9:03 AM

There are numerous studies that show red light cameras actually increase accidents at intersections. Specifically, drivers being rear ended because instead of going through the light on yellow safely, they immediately slam on brakes causing an accident. These cameras are nothing but a revenue grab disguised as a safety initiative. Even when shown after installation the accidents are increasing, the towns refuse to remove them so they don't lose the revenue.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 8:50 AM

And it doesn't take a genius to prevent getting these tickets. IL driver's manual is clear (p. 22): vehicles that enter the intersection when the light is green have the right of way. IL vehicle code 625 ILCS 5/Ch. 11 Aricle III also specifies the relevant statutes. Yellow means that green is soon to end, and drivers should act accordingly. If you are in the intersection when turns yellow & get a ticket, you just need to appeal. It's a pain in the butt, but you'll be cleared.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 8:44 AM

I understand everyone's frustration (and the potential for municipal/leadership abuse), and have received a red-light ticket myself. But the truth is that the North Ave. portion in River Forest is a rather dangerous strip. I've had many near misses by Binney's and Johnny's Beef. Most drivers speed and are not driving defensively. If the red light camera helps (as the facts appear to support), I'm all for it. (And Lake and Harlem is just as treacherous.)


Posted: July 18th, 2013 12:37 AM

Sooo. If the camera at Harlem & Lake is not active because it is on CC Forest Preserve property, then the camera at North and Harlem can be controled by the owners of the Shell station????

June from Oak Park  

Posted: July 17th, 2013 12:35 PM

There is no law that states you must turn on red; just stop and don't turn until it turns green. The cars honk but I don't care because I don't want a ticket. It's ridiculous that these cameras tie up traffic

Paddy Boy  

Posted: July 17th, 2013 12:16 PM

It's a scam lads! Let's fight it to the end. They're forcing us to slam on the breaks when we're on top of a yellow light. That's like asking the barkeep to pull back on the Jameson's before the whiskey reaches to the of the glass!

OP Resident  

Posted: July 17th, 2013 10:00 AM

Sadly, as a quick Google search will make clear, traffic cameras actually increase the overall accident rate at surveilled intersections as motorists race through them or slam on their brakes at the last minute to avoid the possibility of being filmed running a red light.

RF Achievement  

Posted: July 17th, 2013 6:53 AM

At the time this was introduced in 2009, I was TOTALLY against it, for the reasons given -- money grab. After seeing many accidents saved, and drivers habits totally changed due to the presence of the camera, I am 100% in favor of this technology. For busy intersections like this....we need there presence. Cook County, please get the paper work done. Safety!


Posted: July 16th, 2013 8:21 PM

I've had the pleasure of dealing w/red-light scam twice. The photo they attach to your bill ($100 each time) only shows where you are when the light turns red. The first time, in Chicago, I was 3/4 of the way through the intersection. The second time, in Forest Park, showed me 1/4 of the way through intersection.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 5:15 PM

I agree w/Mr French. These programs assume guilt, and are nothing more than money grabs by politicians. I'm also very skeptical of the accident statistics. They can be easily massaged to fit the narrative.

Chris Carrier  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 4:51 PM

I'm pretty sure if the photo evidence shows that your front wheels passed the white line while the light was yellow, it is not considered a violation.


Posted: July 16th, 2013 4:18 PM

Speaking from experience, if the light turns red while you are in the intersection you will be fined. I strongly urge people to stop the minute you see yellow.

Roger French  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 4:00 PM

these are money grabs by corrupt politicians and companies. RF should investigate those involved. see e.g., the bribery, etc. that occurred in the Chicago program

Charles Doherty from River Forest  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 3:56 PM

How does the math work? 2,469 infractions have been approved but 5,100 people have received first notices and not yet paid.

John from Oak park  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 3:41 PM

Simple question for anyone who might know the details... To be issued a ticket for running a red light, does the vehicle need to be completely through the intersection before the light turns red or is it a violation only if you enter the intersection after the light has turned red?

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