Chicago Tickets Drivers on Shortened Yellow Lights, Makes Millions

| by Michael Allen

The City of Chicago admitted today that its red light cameras have been ticketing drivers on shortened yellow lights, from 3 seconds to 2.9 seconds.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office quietly told its red light camera vendor Xerox to ticket drivers even when a yellow light slipped below the 3-second limit set by the city.

That small change caused 77,000 more red light tickets and brought in almost $8 million for the city in just six months.

After being questioned by the Chicago Tribune for three days, Mayor Emanuel's office stopped the ticketing change on Sept. 22.

In a scathing report released on Oct. 10, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson wrote that Mayor Emanuel's "staff saw their role at that time as keeping the systems operational rather than ensuring that the equipment functioned accurately."

After being exposed publicly, Mayor Emanuel's administration promised to permanently end the shortened yellow light ticketing practice, but is going to keep the millions of dollars.

Some of the tickets were generated by the red light camera company Redflex, which used to have a contract with Chicago. But that came to an end because Redflex's former CEO Karen Finley was charged with federal bribery and conspiracy, along with former Chicago city official John Bills, noted the FBI.

Ferguson said in his report that Mayor Emanuel's administration previously ordered Redflex not to give people a red light camera ticket if a yellow light lasted less than 3 seconds.

Ferguson also wrote, "However, after Xerox took over the operations of the [red light camera] program [in February], the city directed Xerox to accept [red light camera] violations with yellow light times above 2.9 seconds."

According to, Ferguson said Mayor Emanuel's administration didn't review Redflex's records "that would likely have revealed enforcement anomalies as they occurred."

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld denied any wrongdoing by the city, but claims the city has taken “significant steps to correct day-to-day management” and is “confident” in her current red light camera employees.

Sources: Chicago Tribune,, FBI (Image Credit: Joe Ravi)