Our Opinion

The debate about speed cameras has popped up again after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a plan to lower the threshold for speed-camera tickets to 6 mph.

That went into effect in January with warning notices, and the cameras starting issuing $35 tickets for 6-10 mph violations on March 1.

While opponents argue the move was simply to generate revenue for the city’s dwindling coffers, there’s no doubt that safety zone restrictions save lives. And, if a reduced threshold for speeding tickets forces more motorists to slow down, it’s a worthwhile move.

“The Children’s Safety Zone Program protects children, pedestrians and other vulnerable roadway users by reminding motorists to slow down and obey speed limits—especially in areas near schools and parks,” according to the city’s web site. “The program uses automated safety cameras to identify and ticket motorists who are … exceeding the posted speed limits.”

The owner of the car is responsible for the ticket.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Board, while the fatality rate is under 5 percent for pedestrians struck by cars traveling at 20 mph, it jumps to 45 percent when cars are traveling at 30 mph.

According to Bill Lindeke, an urban geographer who studies such statistics, one effect of increased speed pertains to the driver’s “cone of vision.”

“You can see a lot more detail at 20,” Lindeke said, “people on the sidewalk, a bicyclist in the periphery or the ‘open’ sign on a storefront. At 30 mph, the window shrinks dramatically.”

The same is true for reaction time, with typical stopping distances being 40 feet at 20 mph versus 75 feet at 30 mph.

Safety zones are clearly marked, and camera locations are posted on the city’s web site, so there’s no “gotcha” to argue, especially considering the first notification has no fine attached.

Such reasonable restrictions can save lives, and the fines go right back to the public.

Remember, it could be worse.

According to The Guardian, all new UK cars must have speed limiters by 2022. The installed devices will use GPS data and sign-recognition cameras to detect the speed limits of where the car is traveling, then sound a warning and automatically slow the vehicle down if it is exceeding the posted limit.

Motorists have a choice in the way they drive, but in areas such as schools and parks, they should remember one thing.

As the saying goes, “20 is plenty.”