Iowa DOT Hears Input On Traffic Camera Rules - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Iowa DOT Hears Input On Traffic Camera Rules

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     Taking a closer look at traffic cameras in Iowa, the Department of Transportation asked for public input today at a meeting Wednesday on a plan to regulate any cameras cities install on state highways. If the rules are implemented the state could consider taking them away if they aren't living up to state standards. It means cities would have to prove cameras are actually curbing traffic problems.
    The safety versus revenue source debate is heating up so we wanted to take a look at the numbers. Both Davenport and Muscatine have traffic enforcement cameras, including several on highways. In the first few years for Davenport the amount of tickets overall jumped as more cameras were installed. Then it started going down a little in 2012, followed by a big dip this past fiscal year which is in part attributed to some road work.
     In Muscatine the cameras weren't all operational until 2012 and revenue dropped the following year, which officials say is a sign of a change in driving habits. The DOOT would likely consider this along with things like accident numbers in deciding if those would stay or go.
     Currently traffic cameras in Iowa are run by the cities that install them even if they're on state run highways. A good example in Davenport is the intersection of Kimberly road, which is also highway six, and Brady Street. Officials say the number of crashes there have gone down in recent years. From 2001 to 2004, before the cameras, there was an average of three accidents a year. During 2011 and 2012, that reduced 50 percent with an average 1.5 accidents per year. Law enforcement officials in Ankeny Wednesday for the DOT public hearing pointed out statistics like these. Many of them say they think safety and its enforcement should remain up to the cities.
     "Since these camera have been in operation, no deaths have occurred in the S curves on that interstate. That's quite telling and I think that justifies our reason to have them," said Chief Wayne Jerman, Cedar Rapids Police Department. 
     If the rules are changed the DOT could require an annual report on camera effectiveness and then determine whether the camera is necessary on the state road, or if the city should adopt different safety measures. Some drivers think it's mostly about the dollars and cents and there should be more oversight.
     "If the police department wants to prove to us that it's about public safety then give the money away, make it totally about public safety. 100% of that money goes to charity organizations," said David Beer of Cedar Rapids. 
     These changes are proposals at this point and are not final. The public can comment to the DOT until 4:30 p.m. tomorrow.