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Emanuel Supports Countdown Clocks At Red Light Camera Intersections

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed the idea of installing countdown signals at every intersection in Chicago that has a red light camera, so drivers don't have to slam on the brakes to avoid a ticket.

All four of Emanuel's challengers in next month's election have said they would end the city's red light camera program, but the mayor said they do help reduce some types of accidents, and he's already reformed the program with a new contractor, more oversight, and some limits.

"We've added no new sites, and took 16 down where they used to operate," he said.

Emanuel also seemed to endorse a proposal by two aldermen to install countdown clocks at intersections that have red light cameras, so drivers know how long they have to get through before the light changes, and don't have to slam on the brakes if the light turns yellow, possibly causing rear-end collisions.

"I want to make sure that we have a countdown clock throughout the system. That's another additional reform. Always be open to changing, but making sure we never give up the public safety and traffic safety gains that we've made," he said.


The mayor said he prefers to use technology whenever possible to enforce traffic safety laws, so police officers can focus on fighting gangs and gun violence, rather than writing tickets.

A countdown clock for red light camera intersections would be just one part of a proposal from two aldermen to make broader changes to the city's entire traffic light system.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) have proposed that yellow lights in the city be no shorter than 3.2 seconds "or the recognized national standard plus one additional second, whichever is greater."

Their proposal also would require the city to conduct a study of the impact of red light cameras on traffic safety, and to conduct a public hearing in any community where officials want to install a new red light camera system at least three months before the system could be set up. The City Council also would have to pass an ordinance authorizing the installation of any future red light camera systems.

The proposal for a shift to 3.2-second yellow lights in Chicago comes after a Tribune report revealed the city quietly shortened its yellow light standard to 2.9 seconds in February 2014, after a new vendor took over the red light camera program. That switch led to about $7.7 million in red light camera tickets issued to drivers at intersections with yellow lights that were 2.9 seconds. The city has since returned to its original 3-second standard.

It's unclear if Emanuel would support all aspects of Beale and Tunney's plan.

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