How fast is a tenth of a second? For Olympic sprinters, it can be the difference between a gold medal and not placing at all. For Chicago drivers, it's the difference between getting a ticket and not getting a ticket. In Chicago, a tenth of a second equals 77,000 new tickets and $8 million in the city coffers.
The Chicago Tribune did an in-depth investigation into automated traffic camera tickets and learned some pretty troubling information. But first, you need to know that federal traffic safety law regulates the length of yellow lights to a minimum of three seconds long. Try counting next time you see one.
But in Chicago, for months the length of yellow lights was 2.9 seconds. That measly 0.1 second racked up $8 million in extra tickets from automated traffic cameras. Here's how the Tribune reported it:
The Tribune reported Thursday that its analysis of overturned tickets and interviews with experts suggested the Emanuel administration had made a subtle, but significant, change when it switched camera vendors this spring from the beleaguered Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to Xerox State and Local Solutions. Hearing officers were suddenly throwing out hundreds of tickets that showed yellow light times at 2.9, below the 3-second minimum required by the city.