Faster than a drag racer, Chicago has blazed a new trail in speeding violations, issuing 2.8 million speeding tickets in 2021. That’s more residents than live in all of Chicago and speed cameras get the thanks, or the blame.
It all added up to $89 million in total fines last year and Chicagoans are not happy. While complaints about speeders are commonplace, they’re nothing compared to the gripes Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city officials have been hearing.
Lightfoot says the cameras are all about reducing speeding and making the city’s streets safer. So what happened in 2021?
An Illinois Policy Institute investigation found that despite the record-breaking spurt of tickets, traffic deaths in Chicago increased by 20 in 2021 for a total of 167 deaths.
Chicago’s not alone. In New York, there were about 266 traffic deaths in 2021, the highest on record. In Los Angeles, 289 died, also a record. Traffic deaths also increased nationwide despite a major reduction in traffic owing to the COVID-19 lockdown. No one knows exactly why.
Critics say that, given the higher death tolls, the cameras obviously aren’t making the streets safer. And a University of Illinois-Chicago study found that nearly half of the tickets issued to low-income Chicagoans incurred late fees and penalties, creating a hardship for working families.
One of the Chicago speeders cited by the Illinois Policy Institute was Dr. Ramiro Gumucio, who got his first speeding ticket in 30 years. He was going 36 miles per hour. A few weeks later, he got a second one, this one for going 37 miles per hour.
“I believe we all have a responsibility to be safe on the road,” said Gumucio. “I just don’t think that includes lining the pockets of the politicians in City Hall.”