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Red Light Rules Change As City Relaxes Time Allowed To Run A Light

 A sign warns driver of red light camera enforcement at Foster and Broadway.
A sign warns driver of red light camera enforcement at Foster and Broadway.
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The Expired Meter.com

NORTH PARK — Lead-footed drivers now have a little extra leeway to beat red-light cameras throughout the city.

Drivers now will only be ticketed if they enter a camera-monitored intersection three-tenths of a second — or more — after the light turns red, the city announced Monday.

Previously, the standard was one-tenth of a second after the light turned red.

The change follows a recommendation in a new study by Hani S. Mahmassani, the director of the Northwestern University Traffic Center and a transportation professor.

In 2016, the new rules would have reduced the number of tickets issued by 29 percent, totaling approximately $17 million in fines, said Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The city acknowledged that a yellow light changing to a red light creates a "dilemma zone” for law-abiding drivers, forcing people to make a split-second decision about whether to brake or go through the intersection. The three-tenth of a second rule gives a break to "well-intentioned" drivers, Claffey said.

Automatic red light tickets cost drivers $100.

Drivers in New York and Philadelphia also have three-tenths of a second to avoid a red-light camera ticket.

"We want to emphasize that extending this enforcement threshold is not an invitation to drivers to try to beat the red light,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. “By accepting the recommendation of the academic team, we are giving the benefit of the doubt to well-intentioned drivers while remaining focused on the most reckless behaviors.”

In 2014, a Cook County judge ruled that Chicago's traffic signals showed a yellow light for too short a period to adequately warn drivers.

The cameras became a major issue in the 2015 mayoral race, with Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia vowing to remove all the red-light cameras if elected.

A few days after Garcia's announcement, Emanuel announced he would remove 50 cameras at 25 intersections and give red-light violators a chance to attend traffic school in lieu of paying $100 for a first violation.

In all, Emanuel has removed 78 red-light cameras at 39 intersections since taking office, leaving 306 red-light cameras at 151 intersections.