Speed Cameras: Generating Revenue or Changing Habits?

By Chris Earl, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Do the speed cameras in Cedar Rapids just nab speeders and generate revenue? Or do they actually change driver's habits?

According to Cedar Rapids police chief Greg Graham, the numbers bear out Graham's claims that Interstate 380 is safer.

"We haven't worked a crash up there all year," said Graham. "We were constantly working crashes. Last year, three people died in the curve (S-curve). This year, nothing."

Is driver behavior really changing, especially along I-380, where so many of the citations are issued?

Consider this:

On June 12, the police made the I-380 northbound cameras at Diagonal Drive "live" to collect fines. Here is the breakdown for the first four months at that intersection:

- June 12 to July 11: 2,685

- July 12 to August 11: 2,762

- August 12 to September 11: 1,705

- September 12 to October 11: 1,267

That's a 54% drop from the first month to the fourth month. This could be a difference because summer traffic has given way to autumn.

"The majority of people are driving the speed limit, which is all we want," said Graham. "Drive the speed limit."

Graham said the crashes in the city are "down 9%" from the previous year and that having fewer officers working on car crashes frees them up to be in the neighborhoods.

Christina Larsen works in downtown Cedar Rapids but, in the first months the cameras were "live", she racked up four citations. She said two of the citations were "18 seconds apart" for speeding, along Second Avenue SW (3rd Street before 6th Street). Larsen did go to the appeals and got one of those two consecutive citations dismissed. Does she drive slower now?

"Especially on the interstate, I slow down quite a bit," said Larsen, who has also gotten flagged on I-380 northbound at Diagonal Drive. "I do work downtown but I avoid downtown because I don't want to deal with it."

Larsen said three of her four citations arrived on the same day. Quite a kick from the mailman.

"$225 for three," said Larsen.
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