CHICAGO (CBS) -- The grace period is over for Chicago drivers. Starting on Monday, March 1 if one of the city's speed cameras catches you going 6 mph to 9 mph over the limit, get ready for a $35 ticket.
As CBS 2's Marissa Parra reports, it's a controversial move that's made for some unhappy Chicagoans and politicians.
Drivers beware, starting Monday the city will begin enforcing a lower threshold for speed camera tickets, following a 44-day warning period. Drivers who haven't received a speed camera ticket in the past eight years will get one more warning. However, anyone who has received a speed camera ticket since 2013 won't get any additional warnings after March 1.
Under the new restrictions, drivers caught on camera going 6 mph to 9 mph over the limit will get $35 tickets. Under current rules, motorists caught on camera going 10 mph over the limit already face $35 tickets, and those caught on camera going 11 mph or more over the limit are hit with $100 fines.
"Is that about public safety, or is it about revenue? I believe it's about revenue," said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).
The city began using cameras to catch speeders in 2012, so chances are you've been caught at least once over the years.
"Too many times," said Marvelal Goggins, of Roseland. "Over six tickets. Over $600, and that's a lot of money."
Since 2013, Goggins has shared a street with a speed camera on 127th Street.
However, the Chicago Department of Transportation has said the move was prompted by a 45% spike in traffic deaths in the city from 2019 to 2020, despite fewer cars on the roads due to the pandemic.
Beale said, while speeding is an issue, he doesn't see how the difference of 4 miles an hour would do anything to keep people safe. He said the new rules are just kicking Chicagoans when they're down.
"People are hurting right now," he said. "We're in a crisis. We're in a pandemic. Now we're just going to basically just compound the problems that people are already having."
During her first State of the City address in 2019, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was outspoken against what she called the city's "addiction to a regressive fines and fees system." announcing a series of changes aimed at reducing the burden on low-income drivers.
But she did an about face last year when she announced the new stricter rules for speed cameras as part of her 2021 budget plan, as she was facing a $1.2 billion shortfall for 2021.
A lot has happened in between her two different approaches to city fines, including a pandemic that left the city scrambling to make up for a daunting budget gap.
Asked what ideas he has for making up for the city's $1.2 billion budget shortfall, Beale said, "You have to grow out of it. You can't cut your way and you can't tax your way out of it."
Many of the city's speed cameras were disabled in school zones during the pandemic while schools have been doing remote learning.
The mayor's office has continued to defend their decision to reduce the threshold for speed camera tickets.
City officials said, while there were fewer drivers on the roads in 2020 due to the pandemic, cars were going 8% faster on average than in 2019, and traffic deaths through the end of November were up 35% compared to the same time period in 2019. A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation said there were 120 traffic deaths through the end of November 2020, compared to 89 during the same time in 2019.
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