The Alderman Responds

Here is what the Alderman had to say about speed cameras (I should specify: this was not a direct response to my post, just a general email blast…I must not be the only person complaining about this!):

Since October of 2013, the City of Chicago has been installing Automated Speed Enforcement Cameras throughout Child Safety Zone locations. The City of Chicago experiences a great deal of car accidents each year.  Many of those accidents involve injuries and death to people of all ages.  One thing we all know is that the rate of speed is co-related to the outcome of those who have the unpleasant experience of having contact with a moving vehicle.

It is important to understand why I supported automatic enforcement cameras.  As a former law enforcement officer, traffic accident investigator and first responder, I can personally speak to the property damage, injuries and death investigations that made up my daily job assignment.  Without exception, I found that a lower-speed accident resulted in better outcomes for everyone concerned.

Okay, so lower-speed accidents are better than higher speed accidents. So far I’m with him. But, just to be clear, this does NOT say that the “Child Safety Zones” coincide with accidents, injuries, or deaths, or that speed cameras are shown to lessen property damage, injuries, or deaths (much less these specific placements of speed cameras).

The Child Safety Zone program is designed to protect the public by reminding motorists to slow down and obey the posted speed limits around schools and parks. I personally advocated for ensuring there was a reasonable speed cushion of 6 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.  Are speed cameras something I want? No, absolutely not.  Do I want them to be speed traps? No, absolutely not. Do I support speeding throughout the community? No and neither do most residents.  I can say this because of the number of requests made by residents who are asking for speed humps to slow traffic speeds to protect the lives of their neighbors and family members.  The use of speed humps is not allowable on main arterial streets.

“Are speed cameras something I want? No, absolutely not”, but literally one paragraph above he said, “it is important to understand why I supported automatic enforcement cameras”. So you don’t want them, but you support them. Got it.

Perhaps we can think of a better way for “reminding motorists to slow down” that doesn’t also “coincidentally” put money in the city’s pocket. How about better signage to more clearly mark the park and school zones? The one on Indianapolis might be marked, but I didn’t see it when I was actively looking for it. (I have not specifically gone back to see if I can find signage, as some people have done.) If you are only concerned about “reminding” me, how about a bigger sign?

But since he brought it up, how about speed humps? Speed cameras were also “not allowable” until a law was passed, so excuse me if I don’t take “it’s not allowed” as the end all, be all excuse from the guy who decides what’s allowed and not allowed. But wait, speed humps and larger signs don’t bring revenue to the city. Interesting.

I think it’s safe to say City Council members do not want to burden drivers with unnecessary fines.

Why is that safe to say? I don’t find it particularly safe to say the City Council does not want extra money.

We do want to slow excessive traffic speeds everywhere, especially around schools and parks.  The push to abolish speed cameras delivers the message that “speeding and reckless driving is supported.” We cannot support speeding and reckless driving. Traffic controls make it possible for us to drive our vehicles on the roads safely.  Citations for exceeding the speed limit are not anything new.  Technology is affecting our lives every day.  The control of our speed is best controlled by the driver.

This entire paragraph is what is known as a Non Sequitur argument:

Non Sequitur (“It does not follow”). This is the simple fallacy of stating, as a conclusion, something that does not strictly follow from the premises.

It’s just a series of statements. Each statement is true by itself, but do not build to a logical conclusion. The argument is:

  1. We cannot support reckless driving
  2. Traffic controls make driving safe
  3. Tickets are not anything new
  4. Technology affects our lives
  5. Speed is best controlled by the driver

The Alderman wishes us to believe that the logical conclusion to the above is that speed cameras are necessary. Even if the above statements are all true (and I could debate a few of them, particularly #2), it does not hold that speed cameras are the logical outcome.

Abolishing traffic controls in Chicago is not the answer.

That does not mean that establishing speed cameras IS the answer.

The same tools are used in surrounding towns and villages.

Ah, the old, “Everybody else is doing it!” This is another classic fallacy

Argumentum ad populum (argument or appeal to the public) or Argumentum ad numerum (argument or appeal to numbers). This fallacy is the attempt to prove something by showing how many people think that it’s true. But no matter how many people believe something, that doesn’t necessarily make it true or right.

In other words, it doesn’t matter *who* is using speed cameras, that doesn’t justify it. Let’s just hope the surrounding towns and villages don’t jump off a bridge.

Speed cameras and red light cameras are not going away unless they are abolished by State Elected Officials who have the power to outlaw them across the state.  Making adjustments to the system of changing dangerous driving behavior is a much better approach to addressing this matter.  Let us all do a better job of driving more safely and advocate for our fellow drivers to do the same.  Visible signage and traffic controls that support our need to change bad driving behavior and reduce the negative sanctions of fines is a good step in that direction.  Reducing the number of cameras is another option that can be pursued.

Okay, so we’re stuck with them and there’s nothing we can do, but none of this addresses the topic of placement of the speed cameras. Were the speed cameras specifically placed in neighborhoods where reckless driving has been shown to be an issue? Were they placed in neighborhoods with a large “number of requests made by residents who are asking for speed humps to slow traffic speeds to protect the lives of their neighbors and family members”? Or were they specifically placed in areas designed to be speed traps, such as next to parks that are “two blocks away” from the road, concrete lots, dog parks, or fenced in golf courses? Why are some cameras reporting a disproportionate amount of violations, specifically on the South Side, with a handful of cameras each individually generating millions of dollars of revenue for the city.

Do you and I want safer streets? Yes. Do we want to avoid paying fines? Yes we do.  Do we want to send a message that it’s ok to speed and drive recklessly by removing traffic controls? No we don’t.  Will the State outlaw these types of traffic controls? No! Do we want the system monitored better so malfunctions are discovered and corrected quickly? Yes, absolutely.  So, as my colleagues and I advocate for changes, please drive safely.

What I do not see anywhere is evidence that shows that speed cameras reduce “reckless driving” and make an area safer (the *claimed* desired outcome). If such evidence existed, it would be produced. Instead, the Alderman is relying on rhetoric and logical fallacies to make his point. I do see direct evidence that speed cameras make the city money (let’s be honest, the *actual* desired outcome).

Which speaks louder, actions or words? I think the gentleman doth protest too much.

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