By Timothy Geigner @ Tech Dirt
Well, this is fun. We just recently wrote about how Chicago’s speed cameras, ostensibly all to do with safety, failed to bring in as much money as Mayor Rahm Emanuel had suggested in his budget plan. Yes, tickets based on speed cameras were worked into the budget numbers, which is a strange thing to do if they’re supposed to be about safety and not money. Safe driving, in other words, should not trigger a budget crisis. But it turns out the ticketing revenue might still be inflated, even at the crisis number, as a bunch of speeding tickets were generated by cameras within school zones flagging drivers for driving over the school zone limit in the summertime.
Kenneth Maschek, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in circuit court Friday, says he was issued a $100 fine for speeding near Lane Tech College Prep High School on June 26, 2014. A speed camera, or Automated Speed Enforcement system, captured alleged violation, but the school year ended on June 10, Maschek claims. His was one of more than 34,000 violations that Chicago issued over summer break this year, from July 1 to September 1, according to the lawsuit. Maschek says the law is meant to keep the areas around schools, statutorily defined as one-eighth of a mile, safe for the children attending them.
We appear to be doubling up on claiming that revenue-generating laws are all about safety. In this case, speed cameras ticketed drivers for driving over limits intended to protect children when there were no children present. In case you were wondering, state law specifically prohibits issuing citations for driving over school zone limits except on “school days.” This resulted in millions in revenue that never should have been generated.
The city’s website states that school safety zones are in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on school days, reducing speed to 20 mph until 4 p.m. and 30 mph after that. Maschek who cites the page and related press releases in his lawsuit, notes that signs posted near the zones also say the speed reduction applies “on school days when children are present.” Residents of Chicago “routinely drive through school safety zones on an ongoing basis,” leaving them constantly vulnerable to speeding tickets when the reduced speed should not be in effect, the complaint states.
I expect that the city will mumble something about summer school and blah blah blah, because that’s what we do in my home city. When confronted with a clear mistake or inequity, we look it straight in the eye and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s sort of a municipal past time around these parts. Hopefully the courts will see through any push back. Either way, the claim that speed cameras have anything to do with safety should be over and done with.