Chicago’s drivers appear to be slowing down, based on a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the city’s speed-camera data.
This year through March 29, drivers had been caught speeding by one of Chicago’s 151 speed cameras 208,891 times, a Sun-Times analysis of city data found. That’s down 11.8 percent from the same period in 2017.
While a snowy February might have contributed to that drop, City Hall also credits drivers who slow down because of the cameras.
“There are several factors at work here, most importantly improved driver behavior,” says Michael Claffey, spokesman for the city Department of Transportation.
Claffey notes that the number of violations has been decreasing since the city began using speed cameras in 2013. He calls the cameras program “an effective tool that encourages drivers to slow down and observe the speed limit.”
The city set up speed cameras in “Children’s Safety Zones” — mostly near schools and parks. The cameras usually are turned on when kids are likely to be in the area.
The owner of any vehicle caught speeding by the camera during those times faces a $35 fine for speeding six to 10 miles an hour over the speed limit and $100 for going over the limit by 11 miles an hour or more.
Speeds around the cameras have dropped from 26 miles an hour in 2014 to 22.5 miles an hour, the Sun-Times analysis found, with a 4 percent decrease in crashes in those areas between 2013 and 2015.
This year’s decrease isn’t uniform across the city.
The speed camera at 57 E. 95th St. — near the CTA’s 95th Red Line station, now undergoing construction, captured 212 speeding violations in the first three months of this year. That’s a 50 percent drop over the same period in 2017.
Other cameras that logged a drop of more than 40 percent during those three months while being operational as many or more days than they were during the same period in 2017 are at 324 S. Kedzie Ave., 2912 W. Roosevelt Rd., 3034 W. Foster Ave., 2432 N. Ashland Ave., 2080 W. Pershing Rd., 2448 N. Clybourn Ave. and 3137 W. Peterson Ave.
The number of speed-camera violations at 4843 W. Fullerton Ave. more than doubled so far this year, logging a total of 3,198 so far in 2018.
The city’s speed-camera and red-light programs have been the subjects of some controversy. The city approved a $38.75 million settlement last year, granting refunds to drivers who were denied due process after being cited because of the cameras.
Still, in a report last month, the National Transportation Safety Board encouraged municipalities to install speed cameras to reduce the number of crashes.
“The cameras are doing their job and especially now that they are in the right place,” says Brian Berg, a spokesman for Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who heads the Chicago City Council’s transportation committee. “Before, they were a revenue-generation machine.”