TRAFFIC CAMS: Decision On Control To Be Made

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For nearly a decade, where, when, and if traffic enforcement cameras should be used has been a hot issue in the legislature.

The debate has led to what we have now:  individual cities and counties making the decisions.

Those in favor of traffic enforcement cameras say they believe in them for all the right reasons.

"They have been hugely successful from a safety standpoint. We've reduced accidents nearly 60%,” said Justin Vondrak, the assistant Sioux City attorney.

"They don't care if it's a rich person in the car or poor person in the car. They don't care what race you are. Either you ran the red light or you didn’t,” said Captain Melvin Williams of the Sioux City Police Department.

Iowa DOT director Paul Trombino believes communities have a different motive when they install them.

"I think the reasons communities are jumping to them is because they're revenue. They're using safety as the disguise, and revenue is driving this decision,” said Trombino.

Lawmakers have fought about it for years and haven't gotten anywhere.

So the DOT is asking to regulate cameras or get rid of cameras on the roads it maintains if they don’t meet safety criteria.

In the DOT proposal, cities would file detailed traffic safety reports each year on locations where they wish to install traffic enforcement cameras.

It would then be up to the DOT to determine whether the cameras or other methods like construction projects should be used to make the areas safer. 

Traffic cameras would be a last resort.

"If there is a safety concern on a road or they believe there is a safety issue, we should be working together to address that issue,” Trombino told Channel 13 News.

Vondrak fears the cameras wouldn't become a last resort, but wouldn't be an option at all.

"Director Trombino hasn't granted a permit in his history of being a director. One might assume no permits would be granted in the future either,” said Vondrak.

The rules committee didn't take any action Tuesday and unless it brings it up at the next meeting, the new DOT rules will take effect as early as January.

The other option is for the rules committee to bring this up again at its meeting in November.

The committee could send it onto the legislature to decide or suggest provisions to the DOT proposal.

In the meantime, the DOT wants to hear from the public.

The DOT is hosting a public forum in Ankeny on October 30th.

The DOT is accepting public comments about automated cameras on their website