It appears the effort to ban traffic enforcement cameras has stalled at the statehouse. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen is the top Republican in the legislature, “My understanding is it’s short of the votes,” Paulsen says.
Critics complain the cameras violate due process rules for motorists, as there’s no on-the-scene judgment from a cop who can take into account weather conditions, the speed of other vehicles and other factors when deciding to issue a speeding ticket or cite someone for running a red light.
The mayors of two of Iowa’s largest cities defend traffic enforcement cameras. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says traffic enforcement cameras have been generally accepted by citizens in his city. “We’re trying to use technology, which is cheaper and more efficient, than using actual police officers out there trying to stop people on Interstate-380,” Corbett says.
“We have about 50,000 cars a month that go through Cedar Rapids and less than one percent are being ticketed, We’re not trying to be obsessive. We’re not trying to gouge anybody. We just want them to obey the laws.” Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan is leading a city where red light cameras have been operating for several years.
“For example, our main street which would be West Broadway and Highway 6, we had a number of accidents. ,In fact, we had six deaths in the late ’80s along that stretch in a three-year period. One of the problems was speed and running red lights,” Hanafan says. “…Our accidents are down about 35 percent in the areas that we have put in red light cameras.”
Hanafan says his city collects between three- and four-million dollars a year from the tickets assessed to the owners of vehicles caught running a red light. Half of that is used for property tax relief. The rest is used to correct safety issues in Council Bluffs.
In Cedar Rapids, traffic enforcement camera citations generate three-million dollars annually and it’s used to “underwrite” the police department’s budget according to Corbett. “The legislature passes the laws,” Corbett says, “but they don’t provide any funding for local governments to enforce the laws that they pass.”
Corbett and Hanafan made their comments this weekend during an appearance on the “Iowa Press” program on Iowa Public Television.