A lawsuit filed Tuesday is challenging the legality of automated traffic cameras which Cedar Rapids officials say save lives and reduce crashes. The cameras came under fire after the Iowa Department of Transportation said two Interstate 380 speed cameras don’t comply with state rules that require at least 1,000 feet between a camera and speed limit change.
The class-action lawsuit claims the speed cameras fail to provide adequate notice to motorists, and that the cameras target certain motorists while thousands more are exempt from the rules. Gary Hughes of Marion, one of two people who filed the suit, told KCRG TV that he has never gotten a ticket from the cameras. “I am asking for the traffic cameras to be banned, both temporarily and permanently, ” Hughes says. He believes the cameras are unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed in Linn County District Court against the City of Cedar Rapids and Gatso USA, a Delaware-based company that provides equipment and services for the camera program. The other plaintiff in the lawsuit, Arash Yarpezeshkan of Cedar Rapids, could not be reached for comments. Attorney James C. Larew, who is representing the men also declined to comment.
The speed cameras photograph motorists who violate the speed limit and those drivers face a civil penalty of at least $75. These violations are different from traditional speeding tickets, which go on a motorist’s driving record. Hughes told KCRG TV the cameras can only take a picture of a license plate on the back of the vehicle, which exempts around 100,000 vehicles. “Without a rear-facing plate, there’s no way the traffic cameras are ever going to issue them a citation,” Hughes says. The lawsuit says that “violates fundamental notions of fairness and equality under the law.”
The lawsuit also says at least 3,200 government vehicles are not listed in the database used by Cedar Rapids and Gatso to enforce the camera program, and thousands of vehicles not in the Iowa DOT database used by Gatso escape the camera penalties.
The second argument in the lawsuit claims the traffic enforcement program is “independently flawed” because Cedar Rapids has failed to provide drivers with minimally-required notice of speed limit changes, meaning drivers are denied “a reasonable and safe opportunity to reduce speeds without incurring civil penalties.” The Iowa DOT notified Cedar Rapids that cameras on I-380 didn’t appear to comply with the 1,000 foot rule that took effect in February.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett and Police Chief Wayne Jerman acknowledged the discrepancy in a recent news conference. Jerman said the cameras will stay up and operating and ticket recipients will not be getting a refund. “There is no reason for refunds because we, the city, intend to uphold the conditions of the program,” Jerman said. The lawsuit seeks a refund for anyone fined under the program in the last two years along with the ban on the cameras.
Cedar Rapids automated traffic cameras issued nearly 100-thousand tickets worth $5.3 million in 2013, according to a report to the DOT. The city received $3.1 million of the revenue, while Gatso collected $2.1 million, according to Cedar Rapids. Since February, when the new rule took effect, the two cameras not in compliance with the DOT rules issued approximately 40,000 tickets.
By Forest Saunders, KCRG TV