3,200+ Government Vehicles Can Avoid Traffic Cam Citations

By Erin Jordan, Reporter

Traffic flows along the northbound lanes of Interstate 380 as workers install speed cameras on a road sign north of the H Avenue NE interchange on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, in northeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - More than 3,200 government vehicles cannot be ticketed by cities with traffic cameras because the cars and trucks aren’t listed in computerized files.

More than 350 local, state and federal agencies have vehicles given a special designation by the Iowa Department of Transportation so their license plates do not turn up in electronic searches, according to data the DOT provided KCRG.com Tuesday.

"If a vehicle is not on file, no violation is sent," Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin told KCRG.com last week. "As part of our business rules with our vendor, if a vehicle is not on file, the event is captured, but the event is not forwarded to our agency."

The question of whether public officials are avoiding speeding tickets came up after an April incident in which a state-owned SUV carrying Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was clocked driving 84 mph on Highway 20, which has a speed limit of 65.

A state trooper who pursued the car did not initially know it contained the governor because the SUV’s registration was not kept in computerized files.

All state vehicles are registered, but some are not in computerized files, said Lt. Rob Hansen, Public Information Bureau Chief for the Iowa Department of Public Safety. These vehicles may be used to transport dignitaries or for covert investigations, he said.

This means, if a law enforcement officer tries to do an electronic search for a vehicle’s plate number, the number won’t be found. The same is true for traffic camera vendors, which usually reject those violations.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has the most vehicles not listed in computerized files with 210, followed by the Des Moines Police Department with 170 and DCI with 151, the DOT reported.

The Iowa State Patrol is listed as having 140 vehicles not in computerized files, but Hansen thinks the number is really fewer than 100.

“We have reduced the number of unmarked vehicles in the past six months in an effort to provide a more robust visual presence on the roadway system,” Hansen wrote in an email. “Our fleet manager will be reaching out to IDOT to ensure those 30-plus vehicles have been removed from this designation.”

Agencies allowed to use vehicles not included in computerized files includes law enforcement, lottery officials, public health officials, disease investigators, mental health professionals and economic development officials pursuing new businesses.
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