Red Light Camera Enforcement

The Red Light Camera Enforcement Program was created and designed to increase safety on Chicago streets by reducing the most dangerous types of crashes at the most dangerous places on our streets – namely, intersections. Crashes are often categorized by the type of (first) impact. Crash types include angle, rear-end, side­swipe, turning, head-on, fixed object, pedestrian, and bicycle, among others. While all crash types are potentially serious or deadly, the Red Light Enforcement Program and the cameras deployed as part of that program are intended to help reduce one of the most dangerous type of crashes: angle (or “T-bone”) crashes. Angle crashes – along with pedestrian and bicyclist crashes, which the Red Light cameras also helps to reduce – often result in serious injury or death. The Red Light Camera Enforcement Program is intended to encourage drivers to obey traffic signals and reduce red light running, thereby reducing the incidence of serious and fatal crashes.

Chicago began its red light camera program 2003 with enforcement at just two intersections: Peterson and Western, and 55th and Western. In subsequent years, additional intersections have been added based on crash frequency, crash type, and crash severity, as well as community input and Aldermanic support. Currently (January, 2021), 149 intersections are enforced.

The majority of intersections in the Red Light Enforcement Program have cameras enforcing just two of the intersection approaches (directions of travel). However, CDOT posts signs warning drivers that the intersection is photo-enforced on all four (or more) approaches.

The Chicago Department of Finance Citation Administration Division handles citations. Click on the links below for a map of camera locations and red-light-ticket services offered by the Department of Finance.

Red Light Camera Enforcement Academic Study

Northwestern University’s Transportation Center studied the Chicago’s Red Light Camera Enforcement Program and published the report, Chicago Red Light Camera Enforcement: Best Practices & Program Roadmap.

 

The study is available at: http://www.transportation.northwestern.edu/research/report-redlightcameras.html

Red Light Community Meetings

Under an ordinance proposed by City Council, which was approved in May 2015, the Department of Transportation is required to hold a public meeting before any red-light camera or camera system is installed, removed, or relocated. The last time that such changes were made was in 2017. CDOT held meetings in local communities to describe and discuss the removals and relocations. See a list of these meetings.

See the exhibit boards used at these community meetings.

Reducing the Most Dangerous Types of Crashes

CDOT is committed to improving safety on our streets, and the Red Light Camera Enforcement program is a critical part of this effort. The program has proven effective in discouraging motorists from running red lights and in reducing the most dangerous types of crashes.

The locations of red light cameras are determined through analysis of the crashes experienced at an intersection. Potential intersections are ranked based on the number of total crashes, the number of angle crashes, and the angle crash rate. The angle crash rate is the primary criterion used to identify locations for red-light camera installations and relocations.

Angle crashes are most likely to result in serious (incapacitating) injuries or fatalities. The likelihood of serious injury or fatality in a right angle (“T-bone") crash is increased when the red-light running vehicle is also speeding.

Analyses of Chicago’s red light camera-equipped intersections found that dangerous angle crashes were reduced to approximately 66%* of the yearly angle crashes before the camera was installed.

The safety goal of the program remains focused on reducing the most dangerous types of crashes. Rear-end crashes tend to decrease in frequency as driver behavior
changes over time to comply with the red-light traffic laws.

The most recent crash statistics show that between 2005 and 2019 crashes of all types were down at intersections with red light cameras, and overall safety had improved*:

  • Dangerous right angle (“T-bone”) crashes decreased to 66%
  • All crashes at Red Light camera intersections were down to 57%
  • Crashes resulting in injuries were down to 38%
  • Pedestrian crashes were down to 39%
  • Rear-end crashes were down to 57%

 

*Based on comparison of traffic crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for crashes occurring within 250 feet of the current red light camera-enforced intersections in 2005 (the reference period) and 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available).

 

The State of Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-208.6) requires municipalities operating automated traffic law enforcement systems to assess the safety impact of each system using the best available data. The analysis shall cover a period of time before and after installation of the system sufficient to provide a statistically valid comparison of the safety impacts. The analysis shall be made available to the public and posted on the website of the municipality.

Frequently Asked Questions
How do red-light cameras work?

The red light enforcement high-resolution digital cameras are integrated with the traffic signal system and use 3D radar to detect vehicles approaching the intersection. When the cameras identify a vehicle entering the intersection after the signal has turned red, they record both still-photographs and video footage of the vehicle, including the rear license plate.

Who reviews those images?

The recorded images (photographs and video) – referred to as red light camera “events” – undergo initial review by the camera equipment vendor in order to verify that the images (and license plate) are sufficiently legible and that a violation has occurred. The “events” (image recordings) that are judged by vendor to constitute violations are then forwarded to the City's Department of Revenue for a second review and, if confirmed as a violation, for processing and ticket issuance. Citations are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle shown in the photographs and video. All motorists who receive a red-light camera ticket can review the video and photography record of the violation on the city’s web site: www.cityofchicago.org/finance

How long is red-light camera video available for review?

24-hour streaming video from red-light cameras is available for review for 30

days. Video of red-light violations are available for review for a period of two years.

What about drivers turning right on red, or still traveling through the intersection when the light turns red?

Red Light Cameras do not take pictures of vehicles legally turning right on red after a complete stop – as is required by law – or caught in the intersection after the light turns red (for example, vehicles that entered the intersection on yellow, or were already in the intersection and waiting to make a left turn).

How are red-light camera intersections chosen?

The City reviews and analyzes crash data, paying particular attention to the number of right-angle (“T-bone”) crashes at intersections, which are typically the result of a vehicle running a red light and then striking another vehicle traveling on the cross-street. Locations with a high number (or rate) of right-angle crashes are prioritized for red-light camera enforcement.

How long are Chicago’s yellow lights?

In the City of Chicago, the yellow phase is set at 3 seconds on streets where the approach’s posted speed is 30 mph or lower. The yellow phase is set at 4 seconds on roads where the approach speed limit is 35 mph or higher. The yellow phase durations used by the City of Chicago fall within guidelines published in the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), and recommendations made by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).

Engineering judgment indicates, therefore, that the length of Chicago’s yellow phase provides adequate time for a driver traveling at or below the posted speed limits to react and stop safely. The three-second timing has, in fact, been in place for several decades. No signal timings were changed before or after the implementation of red-light cameras.

Why not just make yellow light longer?

Changing signal and phase timings will not solve the problem of drivers running red lights.

The purpose of the yellow light is to warn drivers that the light is about to turn red. It is not intended to promote speeding or risk-taking. Unfortunately, too many drivers seem to believe that a yellow signal is a sign to speed up -- when in reality it should be a sign to slow down.

Moreover, extending the yellow phase won't solve the problem of red light running because motorists will quickly learn that they now have an additional second or two, and (some) will continue to treat the yellow as an extension of the green. The behavior that certain drivers exhibit – recklessly running red lights – will not be affected. In addition, a longer yellow phase would not, in most cases, be beneficial to the overall safety of the intersection, where geometric design and signal timing must coordinate and balance multiple, complex movements.

Finally, changes in signal phase timing may have a negative impact on traffic flow throughout the city, increasing congestion, travel times, and tailpipe emissions – as well, in some cases, as delaying and putting pedestrians and bicyclists at risk.

So-called “rolling stop” right-turns-on-red aren’t that dangerous—why issue tickets for them?

A red-light violation is a red-light violation—whether you’re going straight or turning left or right. State law is clear: A right turn on red is allowed (at locations where signage does not prohibit or limit it) only after a vehicle comes to a complete stop. A vehicle “rolling” though the turn can endanger pedestrians and bicyclists who may be legally crossing the street with the green light and/or the “Walk” signal.

Why does the violation go to the car’s registered owner?

As the registered owner of the vehicle, one has a legal responsibility for all parking fines and non-moving violations assigned to your vehicle. The automated enforcement system is similar to Chicago's parking ticket system. If you loan your car to a friend, a relative or a child, you assume that person will obey all laws while driving.

Are red light camera violations considered a moving violation?

No. They are administrative violations, similar to a parking ticket.

Are there signs posted where automated red light cameras enforce traffic signal compliance?

Yes, in the City of Chicago signs are posted on all approaches to an intersection where automated red light cameras enforce. The City currently exceeds the requirements for automated enforcement signage specified in the Illinois vehicle code (IVC) (625 ILCS 5/11-208.6. (k) An intersection equipped with an automated red light enforcement

 

must include the installation of signs visible to approaching traffic, which clearly indicate that the intersection is being monitored by an automated traffic law enforcement system cameras. The City also exceeds the recommendations for signage at locations where automated red light camera locations, which is in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

Automated red light camera signage is checked regularly by the City’s camera vendor and CDOT employees and contractors in order to ensure that the required signage is present and in good condition at all automated red light camera intersections. The City and its vendor also regularly test the automated enforcement equipment (cameras and flashes) to ensure proper functioning.


Red Light Community Meetings Held in 2015

2017 Red Light Community Meetings

Supporting Information Facts