Busted: Notified By Mail

Yesterday was an expensive day to open the mail. In it was a notice from the City of Chicago’s Department of Revenue. The notice was letting us know that while we were visiting the windy city this past January, we ran a red light.

Funny, I don’t remember Mr. Sally J gunning it an going through an intersection. Then again,  I was probably reading email on my phone, passing snacks back to the kids, or was otherwise engaged. Besides, they had photographic evidence.

Gone, apparently, are the days where if you run a red light and an officer doesn’t see it, it’s like it didn’t really happen. No, no, the city of Chicago has installed cameras in some of its neighborhoods, and they send out “Camera Enforcement Violation” notices.

On the notice, there’s a web address where you can view the photos (there’s a grainy copy on the notice), and the video that’s caught you in the act. And apparently, Mr. Sally J observed a rolling stop before turning right at a light. Whatever.



I have to say though, the advent of video surveillance for traffic violations freaks me out a little. Now you can’t see the video, but when I watched it, it didn’t really look like violation to me. I mean, yes, it was a rolling stop, but it wasn’t dangerous. You can see the brake lights are on, and he’s slowed down to about 10mph. There are no pedestrians by the time our van rolls on the scene. I have a feeling that if an officer had seen this violation, he or she would not have pulled us over for this.

So city of Chicago, the check is in the mail. We paid for parking , we paid the tolls, we paid for lunch and now we’re sending you an extra $100 because your cameras told us to do so. Next time, we’re taking the train.

Disclaimer: I understand the need for traffic laws, but I tend to get a little defensive for red light/stop sign violations. It’s probably because I got a ticket once during summer school from a rent-a-cop on a university campus, ruining an otherwise fine summer day. I had to pay the fine or I wouldn’t get my transcripts for the summer. Anyway.

6 replies on “Busted: Notified By Mail”

Uugh. Once I moved into a new neighborhood and drove about 37 mph in a 30 mph zone a few times without realizing there was a speed camera. My mail was being forwarded at the time, so the tickets were sent my old address, and I got the notices literally the DAY the fines were due. Luckily I could pay them online. Still, screw you, Montgomery County.

I got a ticket for a “rolling stop” at a four-way stop once (which wasn’t even a rolling stop–I distinctly felt my car fully stop, which I was conscientiously aware of because occasionally at very slow speeds I can do this without my foot on the brake, which was possibly the problem, in retrospect). But the thing that was ridiculous was that even an actual rolling stop in this situation would have been safe. There were 10+ cars in all directions and everyone was patiently going in order. If I had not stopped and waited my turn, there would have been an accident. So even if someone did roll through on their turn, they’re still observing the spirit of the law–going in order, getting everyone through the intersection in an orderly manner. I think rolling through when you can’t see who’s coming is dangerous, but when everyone has to wait for everyone else, if you’re going in order and not hitting people, it seems like you’re obeying the spirit of the law. BUT I AM NOT A COP SO WHAT DO I KNOW.
(You should also know that I have been to traffic court once and traffic school once, so you can choose not to trust my judgment. Though having done all these things I consider myself a semi-expert on traffic law as it applies to me.) (Also I’ve paid 20+ parking tickets, including one I definitely should have contested, and I have had to get my car out of an impound lot once, so my reliability is again up to you to trust.)

I think brake lights must be a key indicator that you’ve stopped. I completely trust your opinion on this matter — you seem to have extensive personal experience with traffic laws.

Although I’m surprised you haven’t swapped your car out for a horse or the city bus. Either would be cheaper!

Bah! I’m feelin’ some anger for you. While I think redlight cameras do help people be more cautious around intersections, they can screw over people like you in this kind of situation where, as you say, a cop wouldn’t even pull you over if he/she witnessed your “rolling stop.”

In the city where I live (pop. about 200,000?), the city put in red light cameras and started passing out tickets in the mail. One guy got a ticket and took the city to court because he thought it was unlawful (I can’t remember exactly what his reason was) and the city had to take down all the new (and expensive) red light cameras and stop using them.

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