Imagine this: You are on your way to work, in a bit of a hurry and
about to cross an intersection. The light is yellow, so you speed up,
believing you'll have time to make it through the intersection before
the light turns red. You realize that you've made the wrong choice when
the light flashes to red just before you enter the intersection. You
continue on through because it's too late to stop, but your gut churns
as you wait to get pulled over. After a moment, you realize they aren't
coming for you, and you breathe a deep sigh of relief.
Almost everyone has misjudged a red light at some point in their
driving career. However, drivers in the following counties can say
goodbye to the sweet feeling of relief that comes from "getting away
with it." Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison and St. Clair counties have
joined the city of Chicago in installing red light cameras in certain
intersections. Even if a police officer doesn't catch you, you could
still receive a ticket in the mail.
Illinois intersection cameras work by taking either a series of
pictures or a video of the violation. The cameras turn on as the light
turns yellow. If they sense that you are going too fast to stop for the
red light, they automatically snap a photo of your car and your license
plate when your car passes the stop line after the signal changes.
Then, another picture is snapped to show your car continuing through
the intersection after the light change. You may also be ticketed if
you make a right turn on red without stopping first. The pictures are
reviewed by police officers, and if it is determined that a violation
occurred, the registered owner of the car is mailed a ticket. You
should not receive a ticket if the light was green when your vehicle
entered the intersection, and of course you are also off the hook if
you are participating in a funeral procession.
What if you weren't driving? Well, you can take comfort in the fact
that Illinois treats a red light camera violation as a civil violation
rather than a criminal one. It won't go on your driving record and it
won't affect your insurance rates. Illinois intersection cameras are
like extremely expensive parking tickets.
Many cities with the cameras also have a website where you can log on
to view your "15 seconds of fame." If you see something amiss in the
pictures or videos, or if you just want to fight the ticket, the state
does give you an option to appeal. However, the only valid defenses for
running an Illinois red light are
- The vehicle or the license plate was stolen.
- You were not the registered owner of the vehicle on the date the
- You already got a ticket from a police officer.
- The car in the pictures was leased or rented to someone else on
- You were going through as part of a funeral procession.
Illinois law does require that intersections with cameras have signs
indicating that the red light is being photo-enforced, so you should
not be caught unawares. Just remember to approach the intersection
cautiously, and stop for a yellow if you are unsure if you can make the
light or not.