Red Light Camera Enforcement is designed to increase safety on Chicago streets by reducing the most dangerous types of crashes at intersections. The different types of crashes between vehicles are rear end, side swipe, angle, and head on. While all crashes are potentially hazardous, Red Light cameras are designed to reduce angle (or “t-bone”) crashes because of their extreme danger to those involved. As individuals comply with traffic signals, serious crashes and injuries reduce significantly.
Chicago began its red light camera program 2003 with enforcement at two intersections: Peterson and Western and 55th and Western. In subsequent years, additional intersections have been added based on crash frequency/severity.
At most Red Light Camera intersections, two approaches are monitored. However, CDOT posts signs at all four approaches identifying the intersection as photo-enforced.
The Chicago Department of Finance - Parking 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.
Reducing the Most Dangerous Types of Crashes
CDOT is committed to improving safety on our streets, and the Red Light Camera Enforcement program has proven to be a critical part of that effort. It is effective in discouraging motorists from running red lights and causing crashes.
Intersections are chosen for Red Light Cameras based on the crashes experienced at the intersection. Intersections are ranked based on the number of total crashes, angle crashes, and the angle crash rate. The angle crash rate is the primary criteria to identify red-light cameras for potential relocation.
Angle crashes are most likely to result in serious injury or fatalities. The likelihood of serious injury or fatality in a right angle 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 by an average of more than 47% at intersections equipped with red-light cameras.
The safety goal of the program remains focused on reducing the most dangerous 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 2012 crashes of all types were down at intersections with cameras, and overall safety had improved*:
* Based on comparison from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) of crashes occurring within 125 feet of the current red light camera-enforced intersections in 2005 and 2012. Note that in 2009, IDOT changed its reporting methodology for certain crash types to include only crashes resulting in $1,500 or more in property damage (increased from $500); this may have an effect on the comparison of total, right-angle and rear-end crashes reported, but does not affect the comparison of crashes involving pedestrians or resulting in injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do red-light cameras work?
The digital cameras are tied into the traffic signal system and use radar to detect vehicles approaching the intersection. When the cameras record vehicles entering the intersection after the light turns red, they take still and video pictures of the rear of a vehicle, including the license plate.
Who reviews those images?
The images receive an initial review by the camera vendor to make sure the image quality is sufficient. The images are then forwarded to the City's Department of Revenue for review and processing. Citations are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle shown in the pictures. Any motorist who receives a red-light camera ticket can review a video of their red-light violation on the city’s web site: www.cityofchicago.org/Revenue
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 required by law—or caught in the intersection after the light turns red (for example, a car already in the intersection waiting to make a left turn).
How are red-light camera intersections chosen?
The City reviews crash data, paying particular attention to the number of "right-angle crashes" at these intersections--indicative of accidents caused when one vehicle runs a red light and strikes another. Only locations with a high number of right-angle crashes are chosen for red-light cameras.
How long are Chicago’s yellow lights?
Chicago's yellow lights are set at 3 seconds on streets where the approach speed limit is 30 mph or lower, 4 seconds on streets where the approach speed limit is 35 mph or higher. These timings fall within the guidelines of the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and adheres to recommendations by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Chicago’s yellow times are more than adequate for a driver traveling the speed limit to react and stop safely. The three-second timing has 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 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 turning red. It is not intended to promote speeding or risk-taking. Unfortunately, too many drivers believe that yellow is a sign to speed up -- when in reality it should be a sign to slow down.
Extending the yellows won't solve the problem because motorists will learn that they now have an additional second or two, and will still treat the yellow as an extension of the green. The behavior that some drivers exhibit—running red lights—will not change. Longer yellow lights will not be beneficial to the overall safety of the intersection.
Additionally, a timing change would have a negative impact on traffic flow throughout the city, increasing congestion and reducing travel times.
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 only allowed after a vehicle comes to a complete stop. A vehicle “rolling” though the turn jeopardizes pedestrians and bicyclists who may be crossing the street on the walk sign.
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. This new 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 the law while driving.
Are red light camera violations considered a moving violation?
No. They are administrative violations, similar to a parking ticket.