Chicago generated 77,000 additional red-light tickets by shortening yellow-light times, report says
The city of Chicago shaved a tenth of a second from a yellow light threshold this spring, generating 77,000 tickets for motorists caught on camera for running red lights, according to the city inspector general.
The unannounced change allowed red-light ticketing when yellow lights lasted a minimum of 2.9 seconds, as opposed to three seconds in the past, report the Chicago Tribune (in stories here and here), the Chicago Sun-Times and DNAinfo. The fine is $100 per ticket. The city has agreed to raise the threshold back to three seconds.
The lower yellow-light minimum was instituted as the city was switching red-light vendors amid a corruption investigation. A former city hall manger of the red-light program, John Bills, was accused of taking bribes to help the first vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., win the contract.
The report (PDF) found the city mismanaged the red-light program under Redflex. The review by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson was spurred by a Chicago Tribune report that found dramatic spikes in tickets at 12 intersections leading to 13,000 questionable tickets.
Investigators weren’t able to determine the reason for spikes at nine intersections. A change in system settings affected one of the intersections, the report said. The second was caused by a damaged traffic light that wasn’t visible. The third was caused when a faulty sensor suddenly began working.