Chicago Red-Light Camera Enforcement

An independent academic report released today by the Northwestern University Transportation Center (NUTC) found that Chicago’s Red Light Camera (RLC) enforcement program demonstrates “significant safety benefits” and recommends the continuation of the program. The report highlighted safety benefits that included a 19 percent reduction in serious side-angle and turning crashes, a 10 percent reduction in injury-producing crashes and a measurable “spillover effect” that improved safety at intersections without cameras.

“The safety of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists is our top priority and I am pleased that this comprehensive report confirms the beneficial safety impact of Chicago’s Red Light Camera program,” said Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. “The goal now is to continue our ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability for the program by embracing the study’s recommendations.”

The 105-page NUTC study compared before and after crash data at 85 intersections in Chicago where RLC’s were installed in 2008 and 2009 with crash data for 103 intersections that were not equipped with cameras.

Led by Dr. Hani S. Mahmassani, director of the NUTC and the William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation in the McCormick School of Engineering, the team included an expert advisory panel of traffic safety experts from across the country. The scope of the study included performing a comprehensive assessment of existing practices, and benchmarking them against national best practices. Using available safety data, the team conducted a rigorous analysis of the existing RLC enforcement practices before arriving at its recommendations.

Consistent with other national studies that show overall crashes decrease with camera enforcement, the NUTC study found that injury-producing crashes decreased by 10 percent due to the camera program, with more serious angle and turning crashes decreasing 19 percent and rear-end crashes increasing 14 percent. Federal traffic safety research has found that side-angle crashes cause five times more damage than rear-end crashes as well as being more likely to cause fatalities and serious injuries. The NUTC study is also the first to document a measurable “spillover effect” of improved safety at intersections without cameras.

The City has reduced the number of red-light cameras by 20 percent since 2011 — removing 78 cameras at locations where crash data showed low numbers of crashes. Other reforms include strengthening management oversight, upgrading the technology and adding more public transparency and more public input into the process, including the requirement for public community meetings before any cameras are removed or added. The City also completed the installation of pedestrian countdown timers at all intersections equipped with red light cameras.

TITLE: Chicago Red Light Camera Enforcement: Best Practices & Program Road Map
FOR: Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)
RELEASED: March 17, 2017
BY: Northwestern University Transportation Center
The City of Chicago has one of the longest-running and largest red light camera (RLC) enforcement systems in the country. While numerous studies have shown that camera enforcement is an effective deterrent to reckless driving and its use improves overall roadway safety, support for its application in various cities has not been uniform. Specifically, its application in Chicago has continued to generate public debate. This study performed an assessment of Chicago’s RLC program in terms of its impact on traffic safety, leading to a set of best practices in RLC enforcement, and recommendations for further improvement to the Chicago program. The aim was to provide guidance for continued RLC operation at individual camera locations, as well as for selection of locations for future implementation. By investigating available historical data and conducting statistical analyses, performance metrics and a set of guidelines were proposed to ensure the program is being implemented to the best benefit of the general public and of the City. The outcome of this study is Chicago Red Light Camera Enforcement: Best Practices and Program Road Map.

To see the full NUTC study, Chicago Red Light Camera Enforcement: Best Practices & Program Roadmap, go to:

For more information about Chicago’s RLC program, go to:
View the City of Chicago’s press release on the study: