Red Light

By Lauren Reiniger

April 17, 2013

If you’ve run a red light in River Forest at the intersection of Harlem and North within the past few months, don’t be surprised to find a $100 ticket in your mailbox. River Forest’s live and active red light camera has been catching red-light violators since Jan. 15.

The police began sending citations to violators on March 18.

Anyone who runs a red light while going eastbound at this intersection may receive a citation via mail from SafeSpeed, the red-light-camera vendor for the River Forest Police Department (RFPD.) SafeSpeed collects live videos, and if the driver, by law, runs a red light, the driver is eligible for a ticket.

According to, Illinois state law says all vehicles must come to a complete stop before the marked line when facing a red light. Vehicles making a right turn at a red light must come to a complete stop before proceeding to carefully turn right, yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

It has been reported that the camera installed at this intersection, which is the meeting point of River Forest, Oak Park, Chicago and Elmwood Park, only affects eastbound drivers on North Avenue. It doesn’t matter if the eastbound driver is going straight into Oak Park or turning left or right onto Harlem Avenue. If the driver goes through that light facing west when it’s red in any of those four lanes, they fall under River Forest’s jurisdiction. (See map for visual. All vehicles traveling in direction of red arrows fall under River Forest’s jurisdiction.)

About 60,000 vehicles pass this intersection every day, according to the RFPD. SafeSpeed monitors the intersection constantly.

SafeSpeed sends recorded video clips to the RFPD. Once the RFPD receives the videos, at least two officers need to review them and must determine, within 10 days, whether or not citations should be issued. If the reviewers decided that a violation has occurred, the RFPD signs off on the citation, sends it back to SafeSpeed, and SafeSpeed has 30 days to then send the citation to the home of the vehicle’s owner. The owner can accept and pay the ticket within the allotted time. The state statue says, “The notice shall be delivered to the registered owner of the vehicle, by mail, within 30 days after the Secretary of State notifies the municipality or county of the identity of the owner of the vehicle, but in no event later than 90 days after the violation.”

If an owner doesn’t believe that he committed a violation, a link is available to a website that shows the video clip, including date and time, of the red light violation. Still not convinced? The owner can show up to a designated court date to challenge the ticket.

Citations are $100; Safespeed receives $40 of each ticket, and $60 goes to RFPD.

River Forest Police Chief Greg Weiss said there is an approximate 40 percent dismissal rate for all violations.

“We don’t want to send out petty tickets,” he said, “We ask ourselves, if we were out in the field and saw the violation in person, would we issue a ticket? If the answer is yes, we send the citation.”

“These cameras are not just installed to keep the roads free of red-light-ignoring drivers, but are used to catch hit-and-run drivers as well as criminals on the run, say after just robbing a bank,” Weiss said.

Weiss also mentioned that SafeSpeed cameras provide the RFPD with videos involving pedestrians. “Several videos show people crossing the crosswalk and getting hit by drivers turning right on red. Other videos reveal accidents caused by people stopping at red lights in the middle of intersections and turning right on red when a sign clearly posted says don’t do it,” Weiss said.