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Red light camera program changing driver behavior in Plainfield

4/26/2016, 2:20 p.m.
While nobody likes to get a ticket, Plainfield Police believe that its red light camera program is encouraging motorists to ...
Plainfield Police

Since it switched on its 3 red light cameras in the village in 2010, Plainfield police have seen a change in driver behavior and reduction in crashes.

The village posted the cameras at the intersection of Renwick Road and Route 30 and two cameras, north and south bound, at the intersection of Route 59 and 135th Street. Since the start of an IDOT reconstruction on Route 30, the Renwick Road camera has been removed and won’t be reinstalled.

Plainfield traffic sergeant Eric Munson cited the reduction in total crashes, especially at the busy Route 59 intersection, a reduction in injuries, and a recidivism rate of 96% for drivers who received a ticket through the program.

“The goal of the program…is to change a driver’s future behavior,” said Munson.

Munson noted that unlike some red light programs around the state that have become mired in scandals and political graft, the Plainfield program was administered by the police department to avoid such problems.

Changing driver behavior, especially those that speed through yellow or just turned red lights is important for the Route 59/135th Street intersection which sees average daily traffic volumes of just over 37,000 vehicles.

The village issued about 850 fewer traffic citations at the intersection in 2015 than in did in 2010.

Total crashes declined from 43 in 2009 to 37 in 2015 as did injuries and the prevalence of rear-end crashes. Crashes west of 135th Street were reduced by 50% during the first 5 years of the program as were crashes occurring within the intersection.

Munson said that only 3% of motorists who received a ticket committed a second violation.

The cameras have also brought the prevalence of rear end crashes more in line with the village-wide average of around 55%. To the south, at the intersection of 143rd and 59, where there is no camera, the rate of rear end crashes is closer to 75%.

Munson said that the program doesn’t automatically issue a ticket for violations but instead is first reviewed by an officer before a ticket is issued. The village doesn’t ticket motorists for turning right on a red light he also noted.

And while the village takes in about $80,000 per year in revenue from the program, village documents show that the vast majority of traffic events captured by the cameras are rejected as a ticket worthy offense. Of the 28,071 events captured at the Route 59/135th intersection, over 25,000 were rejected.

Perhaps the biggest impact has been an increase in safety at the intersections. Munson said that since the start of the program, the village has only had 3 crashes related to drivers running red lights at the Route 59 intersection compared to 11 before they were installed.

“We are changing driver’s future behaviors with these cameras,” he said.

Some trustees weren’t as enthusiastic about the program with Brian Wojowski expressing a preference for officers handling the ticketing in person. Wojowski also requested that the program come before the village board every couple of years for review due its fluctuating membership following the election cycle.

“Do they want these red light cameras or do they not,” he said.

Trustee Jim Racich thinks that the program is doing what it set up to do: change behavior and save lives.

“If a life is saved, we really can’t buy it back,” he said, “I support the program.”

Munson said that with 2,393 drivers going through the intersection on a red light in 2015, that the program still is needed. On average, Munson said that about 36,000 people in the state die in traffic crashes each year.

“If that many people are still going through the red light, I still think that cameras serve a valuable purpose,” said Munson.