Crosswalk timers increase street safety

By The Columbia Chronicle

By Eleanor Blick

The Illinois Department of Transportation recently reported that nearly 60 percent of intersections in Chicago equipped with red-light cameras had an increase in accidents since the cameras were installed.

This has caused a debate in City Hall over whether the installation of crosswalk timers at red-light camera intersections would help improve safety. Chicago transportation officials worry drivers will be distracted by checking the countdown timer, while opponents argue the timers will improve driver safety. In fact, timers could improve everyone’s safety.

Pedestrian safety has been overlooked in these discussions. In 2008, 56 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in Chicago, according to a Feb. 17 article in the Chicago Tribune. Additional crosswalk timers will make walking in our high-traffic city safer, giving both drivers and pedestrians a better idea of how long they have to get through an intersection.

It remains the responsibility of every road user to be attentive and make a choice that won’t compromise anyone’s safety. A two-car collision, although dangerous, does not as often produce the deadly results of a pedestrian accident.

Chicago has the most red-light cameras of any U.S. city, with 189 in use. Tickets resulting from cameras brought in nearly $45 million in city revenue last year. But if cameras are increasing the danger of some intersections, a new solution is needed. The city should not put income before the safety of its citizens.

While red-light cameras make drivers speed up to avoid a fine, resulting in the dangerous driving that causes accidents, crosswalk timers are an effective way to move drivers, bikers and walkers through an intersection safely. Chicago should continue to invest in crosswalk timers and should reevaluate the placement of red-light cameras at intersections where accidents have increased.

Instead of applying a universal solution, traffic statistics should be analyzed by each individual intersection, taking into account the area’s pedestrian traffic and the length of the crosswalk, in addition to accident reports. If there has been an increase in accidents since a camera was installed, it should be removed and a timer should be installed instead. The city should not compromise safety for revenue.