Hurried drivers hitting the accelerator rather than the brake as they approach a stop light can expect to be ticketed at a greater rate in Forest Park if village officials approve a camera system meant to catch motorists in the act of disobeying traffic signals.
Administrators have tentatively proposed installing camera systems at three problematic intersections to cut down on the number of accidents due to drivers running red lights. In addition to the safety component, the move is also being touted as a way to capture more revenue for village coffers without reaching specifically into the pockets of local residents. No action is expected on the proposal until several additional traffic studies are completed, but the plan was rolled out to council members during a Nov. 26 meeting.
Police Chief Jim Ryan said his office has identified the junction of Desplaines Avenue and Roosevelt Road as the most dangerous intersection in the village based on the number of accidents that have occurred there in recent years. Also problematic are the intersections of Harlem and Jackson streets and Harlem and Roosevelt Road, Ryan said.
The roads being targeted for the program thus far are traveled heavily by non-residents, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said, increasing the likelihood that the $100 fine levied for an infraction will not be taken from Forest Park residents.
Using equipment provided by RedSpeed-Illinois, police would be able to monitor these intersections more carefully through the use of digital cameras. By placing a magnet roughly the size of a soda can in the pavement, RedSpeed cameras will be activated to take three photos of any vehicle that drives into the intersection against a red light, according to RedSpeed’s Director of Marketing Debra Beerup. Those images will be reviewed twice by the company and once by the village to verify that a violation occurred, and then a fine will be mailed to the registered owner of the car.
Based on improvements seen in other suburban communities such as Rosemont and Bolingbrook, Beerup is promising results.
“In four to six months there is going to be a decline in the number of violations,” Beerup said. “The cameras are working and teaching people the rules of the road.”
The system also captures a 15 second video clip of the infraction and motorists cited for running a red light will be given a website address where they can view the footage. And because the ticket is written to the registered owner of the vehicle, who may not be the driver at the time of the violation, the infraction does not appear on anyone’s permanent driving record.
“Obviously, the reduction of traffic accidents is the key thing for us,” Ryan said.
RedSpeed installs the camera systems, with signs to alert drivers of their presence, free of charge, according to Finance Director Judy Kovacs. The company skims a portion of each citation to recoup expenses.
According to Ryan, the village intends to also use the cameras to provide 24-hour surveillance of each intersection. This feature could prove useful in solving other crimes and helping to identify suspicious vehicles for which police may only have a partial license plate number or other incomplete description.
In the coming weeks RedSpeed will conduct traffic studies at 10 intersections identified by the village for possible cameras. All of those roadways are under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, which adds another layer of bureaucracy to the process. There is no firm timeline for installing the cameras, but village commissioners could approve the project this month.
“As soon as we can,” Ryan said of getting local authorization. “We’re taking it to the council Dec. 17 for their approval.”