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City Considers Using Red-Light Cameras to Check Auto Insurance

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 17, 2009 4:00PM

Photo by josephp
Yesterday, aldermen heard a pitch from the president of InsureNet, the Michigan-based company that sells "instant insurance status verification." Dr. Jonathan Miller, whose company stands to reap 30 percent of whatever the city collects, told the City Council’s Transportation Committee that using his service, Chicago could collect "at least $200 million a year" in fines and fees. While the state currently levies a $500 fine for driving without insurance, the city could pass its own ordinance and keep the fines. If Chicago only charged drivers that also got tickets for running red lights, the city could net as much as $10 million. If Chicago used its existing network of red-light cameras to simply check vehicles for insurance, thereby catching drivers that may be otherwise obeying traffic laws, the city could net enough funds to clear the budget shortfall for 2009.

Although no municipality currently uses photo-enforcement to check insurance on vehicles, "we are going to have three or four states signed in the next 90 days," Rowland Day, InsureNet's Executive Vice President told aldermen. "You could put these cameras on the Dan Ryan. You could have the same camera at the entrance to O'Hare Field's parking lot where you have 10,000 cars parked. In theory, 20-some percent of those wouldn't be insured and they'd all be in violation of a city ordinance," 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke said. "Maybe that's why the staggering amount of revenue you've suggested could be potentially achieved."

The Transportation Committee took no action Monday on the proposal. 38th Ward Alderman and Committee Chairman Tom Allen admitted that it was an "eye-opening" figure. "I like the idea. We'd all like people to have insurance. But, there is a certain group that, outside of putting people in prison, may never get insurance," he said, noting that a $500 fine is a pretty hefty sum for someone that might not be able to afford insurance.