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Watch That Yellow Light - or else!

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Watch That Yellow Light - or else!

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
January 12, 2008

Have you heard about the new red-light camera in Lake in the Hills? Maybe I shouldn't say where it is... Then drivers will stop there (only) and keep running the other red lights.

Lake in the Hills is the nearest community to Woodstock to install this equipment. Here's how it works. It's simple.

1. You run a red light.
2. You get a $100 ticket in the mail.

A complete description of the operation is described on the Lake in the Hills website at http://www.lith.org/ If you'd like to know all the details (well, all that they publish), go there and read all about it.

The camera is activated when the light turns red. Pretty simple. Illinois state traffic law requires that drivers not to enter the intersection on a red light. Everyone slows on the yellow light and stops before the light turns red. Right? Well, don't they?

Of course, they don't. Just Friday afternoon, I watched a red Chevrolet pick-up truck run the red light by MCC at 50MPH, the last car through the intersection. The male driver never slowed, and he had a long time to stop.

OK, so the camera starts when the light turns red. What happens next? When a driver enters the intersection against the red light, the camera takes 2-3 photographs of the vehicle and its license plate. Who the driver is does not matter. Illinois law makes the owner of the vehicle responsible. Should it be this way for all moving violations?

An officer at LitH PD reviews the pictures and triggers the production of a ticket for violators. The ticket is then mailed out to the address-of-record for the vehicle's registration. When you get such a ticket, it's a really good idea not to ignore it.

There are procedures for contesting the tickets; read on the website for what to do if you get a ticket.

Naturally, there is no reason to run a red light. If you are paying attention, not chatting away on your cellphone, putting on make-up, shaving, reading or distracted in any of many other ways, you'll be allowing a safe distance in front of you and will be prepared to slow and stop if the green light turns yellow. And you'll be watching the clown behind you who expects you to run the yellow (or the red).

The Bolingbrook Police Department runs a red-light camera operation that uses video to capture the violation. When the vehicle owner receives the ticket by mail, he can go to www.redlightviolations.com and enter the Violation Number and license plate number. Then he can watch the video of his vehicle while it turns the red light. The timer shows how long the light was red before the vehicle entered the intersection.

We're also asking if there is a process for the owner to point the finger at someone else, if he wasn't driving the car at the time. If a spouse, child, friend, employee or thief was driving his car, he may not be responsible for the ticket. That information is not on the LitH PD website and will be obtained from the Department.

We are also interested whether convictions are reported to the Secretary of State for the driver's record. Bolingbrook PD claims they are not, but I know of at least one ticket that was promptly reported to the DMV.

And what happens in the case of the driver who brakes late and stops, but crosses the white stop bar? Will he be cited? We'll ask.

Another website advises that the excuse "I ran the light to avoid being hit by the car behind me, which was tailgating me" will not work. Hmmm, would you rather have a $100 ticket or a re-styled rear-end of your car and neck and back injuries?

So, folks, watch those yellow and red lights. When you are rolling up to a "stale" green light (one that has been green for a long time), be prepared for it to change and then to stop.

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