Police and City Leaders Defend Traffic Cameras at DOT Hearings
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
ANKENY, Iowa- An Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) plan to restrict the use of traffic cameras in the state got a less than rousing reception from police and city leaders on Wednesday. But a handful of citizens attending the one statewide public DOT hearing on the issue said it's high time to rein in the cameras.
In Cedar Rapids, 11 locations including Interstate 380 have cameras recording both red light or speed violations. The automatically-generated tickets carry civil penalties but don't count as points against a driver's license. Should the DOT rules go through as proposed, at least seven of the Cedar Rapids camera sites would be impacted.
The meeting that took place in Ankeny allowed anyone interested in the issue to speak out. DOT staffers expect as many as 200 written comments along with the several dozen people who spoke in person at the hearing.
The DOT will consider the comments, and any potential changes, over the next few weeks. The earliest the administrative rules could take effect would be February 12, 2014.
If the rules pass as proposed, then ten Iowa cities and counties, including Cedar Rapids, would have to prove automated cameras were necessary for traffic safety on state designated roads. That proof would have to include traffic engineering studies and be repeated every year. The DOT could also require cities to try other measures first before using traffic cameras.
Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman was one of many law enforcement officers defending the cameras at the hearing. The chief said Cedar Rapids has enough data to show a positive impact on safety.
"I think the data the city of Cedar Rapids has will justify the placement. We have 21 months of statistics--and it shows a significant decrease in crashes," Jerman said.
Jerman specifically told DOT staffers than since the placement of cameras on I-380 no deadly crashes have occurred on the downtown "S" curves. Jerman gave the credit to cameras and drivers learning to slow down in the automatic enforcement areas.
Officers from other departments using cameras told similar stories.
But while cameras won unanimous praise from law enforcement, a few citizens told stories of difficulties.
Dave Beer, who owns a car rental business in Cedar Rapids, told the hearing that drivers may do the speed, but as the registered vehicle owner he's the one who has to constantly fight the automatic tickets.
"It's truly about the money, it's not about safety. It could have started out about safety but I don't believe it's there anymore," Beer said.
One DOT staffer said it could take the director about three weeks to decide whether or not to make any changes in the proposed administrative rules.
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