New Chicago speed cameras capture more than 200,000 violations in just 45 days

Eric Pfeiffer

Newly installed speed cameras in Chicago have tallied up some eye-catching numbers, with more than 200,000 violations captured at just four sites ” during the past 45 days.

"Yes, there were a lot of speeders, but I think the more interesting thing is how effective the warning period has been," said Scott Kubly said, the Chicago Department of Transportation official overseeing the new program told the Chicago Tribune.

So far, the city has only been issuing warnings to errant drivers caught on camera. If those warnings had been actual tickets, they would have amounted to $13.9 million in fines in just over a month. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he expects the new speed camera system to generate about $15 million in revenue before the end of the year, once the warning system transitions to issuing actual tickets after October 21.

An analysis from ABC News says that if the violations remain roughly on the same pace through 2014, the program will generate revenue “well above” the $40 to $60 million estimated by Emanuel.

While cameras are currently only posted at four sites, that's expected to expand to 50 locations by the end of 2013.

Each driver gets one free warning for their first violation captured by the cameras. After that, they will receive a ticket and corresponding fine by mail. Fines start at $35 but can go up to $100 if drivers are clocked at driving more than 11 miles above the posted speed limit.

Since first coming into use in the 1990’s, 26 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have used red light camera systems.

Of course, red light cameras have plenty of critics. While they generate income for cash strapped states and cities, some say they are unconstitutional and an inconvenience for motorists.

One company has created an app that alerts drivers when they are approaching one of the cameras. Built with user-generated data, the app’s creators say the goal is to help drivers avoid the fines while allowing them to keep their eyes on the road.

“We are simply giving (drivers) a heads-up. We’re not jamming anything,” Cobra Electronics marketing director Chris Kooistra told Chicago Grid.

In 2010, Arizona announced it had decided to not renew its red light camera program after the system proved wildly unpopular with state drivers.

Montana passed a similar ban in 2009 and the vast majority of local ballot initiatives to prohibit red light cameras have passed.

Chicago has said that it plans to use the money generated from its speed cameras to invest in safety initiatives, after school programs, job initiatives and other funding projects.