Traffic enforcement cameras would be banned in Iowa under legislation that won approval in the Iowa House tonight. Critics like Representative Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls say it’s a personal liberty issue.
“As I’ve talked to a lot of people about this issue around the state and in this building, back home, there’s one word that kept coming out very clearly — even from supporters of traffic cameras…and that word was hate,” Rogers said to open debate on the bill earlier this afternoon. “People hate these things.”
Representative Dave Jacoby of Coralville didn’t disagree, but he argued city and county officials should have the authority to install the cameras if they so choose.
“Traffic cameras — I hate them. They work,” Jacoby said. “It’s none of our business.”
The bill passed on a 58-42 vote. Representative Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City — where traffic camera fines used to run $190 — is a strong supporter of the ban.
“The out-of-state, for-profit vendor had 574 errors in Sioux City alone,” Taylor said during debate. “That ought to give this body pause if we’re talking about justice and if we’re talking about fairness.”
Supporters of the devices, like Representative Mary Wolfe of Clinton, argue they’ve improved safety on roads where speeders are caught on camera and at intersections where vehicles are caught running red lights.
“The first person who dies at an intersection where there was a traffic camera and we take it down — that’s going to be a difficult one for us to explain,” Wolfe said.
Representative Renee Schulte of Cedar Rapids said this bill was the number one concern of the constituents she talked with this past weekend.
“And it wasn’t to please ban the traffic cameras. It was to please let us keep the traffic cameras because it makes our S-curve (on Interstate-380) in Cedar Rapids more safe,” Schulte said. “Every day I get email about why I need to keep the cameras in my community.”
Others, like Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake, warned a culture that accepts traffic cameras would soon accept the use of more invasive “Radio Frequency Identification.”
“This is a rights issue,” Worthan said. “This is just the first step in a long process that puts the RFID chip under the skin and ‘Big Brother’ knows exactly what you’re doing every minute of the day.”
Supporters of the bill say 15 other states and 21 U.S. cities have banned traffic enforcement cameras. However, the bill is unlikely to be considered in the Iowa Senate. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal has often said if you don’t want a ticket from one of the red light cameras in his hometown of Council Bluffs, you shouldn’t run a red light.