Recently, the Iowa House Local Government Committee opted to recommend a total ban on automated traffic enforcement cameras instead of allowing camera placement with certain regulations.
An outright ban would undoubtedly please many motorists concerned about the “Big Brother” aspect of cameras documenting their driving speeds on our state roadways.
The bill would void all local ordinances authorizing the use of traffic cameras as of July 1 and order their removal in eight cities and one county where they are used.
Conversely, a House Transportation committee is still considering an amendment that would create a justification process for regulating the use of traffic cameras. The amendment is essentially the same as one that died in the House last year.
Under that amendment, a local government could use traffic cameras only if they are placed in documented high-crash or high-risk locations where there is a demonstrated safety need for the cameras.
Justification for cameras must include traffic speeds, posted speed limits, traffic volumes and intersection or roadway geometry, crash history and why the local government believes traffic cameras are the best solution.
Many see the cameras as an infringement and/or a money grab.
Indeed, traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Muscatine, Sioux City, Windsor Heights and Polk County generated $13.6 million in revenue in 2016.
Others see the cameras as a prudent safety precaution that can potentially save lives.
Waterloo had been on the cusp of joining these Iowa communities and other cities across the nation in employing cameras to ticket traffic offenders — particularly speeders and motorists who are running red lights at problem intersections.
The Waterloo City Council voted to approve the use of traffic cameras last August.
And the city was ahead of the curve in some aspects of regulated use. The city had been mining its crash data to determine where automated traffic enforcement should be placed. Waterloo Police Chief Dan Trelka had proposed installing red light cameras at six high-crash intersections.
Trelka also had recommended any revenue generated by automated traffic enforcement cameras go toward property tax relief.
We recognize there is a need to balance the benefits of enhanced safety with the “Big Brother” aspect of traffic cameras.
Regarding safety, statistics have shown a reduction in crashes at some intersections where cameras have been installed. We all know of instances in our own communities that reinforce the fact our roadways can be dangerous places, and certain intersections are in the news a lot more than others.
Arguments that such cameras are an invasion of privacy hold little water, since any cameras would be employed on public roadways where motorists are entrusted with obeying traffic laws. Camera locations would be public knowledge. So too would be the types of infractions being enforced.
It’s not much different than having radar monitoring traffic from an airplane or helicopter. It’s simply another tool in managing traffic and encouraging safety.
We’ve stated previously that safety factors should win out, and that’s where we continue to stand.
We may not be ready for traffic cameras everywhere. However, the amendment to create a justification formula that focuses on the most dangerous of intersections, seems a prudent step — one our state leaders should give serious consideration.