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Speed cameras could be just the start for Chicago, if D.C. is any indication

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Updated: October 10, 2013 6:19AM



WASHINGTON — Chicago is getting speed cameras. What could be next? Massive mission creep: Stop cameras. Anti-gridlock cameras. Cameras catching trucks not allowed on city streets.

Rahm’s speed cameras could be just the start of huge photo traffic enforcement by Chicago for all sorts of stuff. That’s what’s happened here.

I’ve been nabbed twice by traffic cameras, once in Maryland and another time in D.C.

My offenses? I entered the intersections on a yellow and the light turned red before I cleared the “box.”

I drive a 1994 Nissan Maxima, a car I inherited in 2001. I proudly keep my D.C. plates — the “taxation without representation” version — in the car’s original “Fergus Nissan Skokie” plate holder.

So you can understand by the car I drive that I’m not a speeder or a risky red light runner. I was — and I stress the past tense — a yellow-er.

No more. These expensive photo citations — with crisp photos of my car and the red light in a frame — altered my driving behavior and will, I guarantee you, change yours.

You’ve heard of Pavlov and the conditioned reflex, influenced by external stimulus. That’s me now, a Pavlovian dog driving the legal speed limit, slowing down as I approach an intersection even if the light is green, if I see a camera perched from a pole. A lot of really irritated people honk you when you do that, by the way.

The D.C. police force has 43 speed cameras — either mobile, portable or fixed.

More cameras are on the way.

D.C. is testing its first stop sign camera. The goal is to install 32 stop cameras in the first phase.

The first deployment of stoppers will be near schools, “where flagrant stop sign running is a significant issue,” D.C. Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Gwendolyn Crump told me.

Not coming to a complete stop will cost you a $50 fine, and the tab for failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian is $75.

D.C. is also planning on 20 “gridlock” cameras to nail drivers failing to clear the intersection in time, a $50 fine. I see a future where no one will risk making left turns anymore if there is a lot of traffic.

There is also a plan for 16 “crosswalk” enforcement cameras to snag a driver who passes another car stopped at a crosswalk for a pedestrian, fine $250.

A few blocks from where I live in the Northwest part of D.C. is the newest new thing in photo policing, and it’s planted on the ground. It’s a tall contraption — over six feet — a sleek metal case with an external camera and what looks like another camera inside.

The job of this unit — eventually there will be eight — is to photograph overheight and oversized vehicles not allowed on city streets. A truck caught on a restricted route faces a $150 fine and overheight vehicles will get a $250 ticket.

D.C., which is tiny compared to Chicago, hauled in $78,826,033 from speed cameras in 2012, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh — said she got the city to make one change: larger signs giving drivers fair warning.

“We want people to slow down, we don’t want them to get a ticket,” Cheh told me.

“By and large, people are supportive” of all the cameras, she said. Said Cheh: People “clamor” for those cameras because “they are tired of people speeding through their neighborhoods.”

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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