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City To Pay $38.75 Million To Settle Red-Light, Speed Camera Lawsuit

 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

CHICAGO — The city is set to pay $38.75 million to settle claims it failed to allow motorists to challenge tickets issued by red-light and speed cameras, city attorneys recommended Thursday.

If the settlement is endorsed by the City Council's finance committee Monday and approved by the City Council Wednesday, 1.2 million people who paid fines — but didn't get a chance to contest 1.5 million citations — could get a refund of half of what they paid the city, officials said.

The law in effect from 2010 to 2015 required the city to send drivers a second notice about the violation and given 14 days to pay or contest the ticket before declaring that they were guilty and imposing a $100 fine on tickets not paid on time, officials said.

City officials changed the rules in 2015, and gave drivers who got a ticket — but no second notice giving them a chance to challenge it — an opportunity to challenge the old violations.

The settlement includes a provision that prohibits any of the tickets in question from being used to suspend a driver’s license or to boot a vehicle.

The settlement will send $26.75 million back to drivers who paid their fines between March 2010 and May 2015 and wipes out $12 million owed to the city by motorists. Those eligible for a refund will be notified by mail, officials said.

The city could have been on the hook for $250 million, according to the lawsuit. The settlement was first reported by the Sun-Times.

The settlement was in the "the best interests of the taxpayers," said Chicago Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel.

The city's red-light camera program has long been troubled.

In March, city officials agreed to ticket drivers only if they enter a camera-monitored intersection three-tenths of a second — or more — after the light turns red.

A Northwestern University Traffic Center study found the old rule forced "people to make a split-second decision about whether to brake or go through the intersection" and could have led to rear-end crashes.

In February, the company that installed the red-light cameras at hundreds of intersections will pay Chicago $20 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the contract was obtained by bribing city officials.