Traffic cameras that cite people for speeding or running a red light soon will be considered for use like a traffic signal under rules being considered by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
State legislators have repeatedly tried and failed to outlaw what the DOT calls automated traffic enforcement technology, so the Department of Transportation is setting guidelines for their use on the state’s primary highway system. In Davenport, that includes traffic cameras on Brady and Harrison streets and River Drive, which are U.S. 61 and U.S. 67, respectively, as well as Kimberly Road, which also is U.S. 6.
The DOT is expected to require studies to determine whether traffic cameras would lower crashes rather than serve simply as revenue generators. The rule-making process began November and is wrapping up with rules for temporary camera uses, such as Davenport’s camera van.
“The Legislature hasn’t done anything, and the use of these things has exploded,” said Steve Gent, Iowa DOT’s traffic and safety director. “The DOT feels we have some responsibility to maintain the safety of the roads.”
The DOT will require traffic safety data in the determination of where to locate traffic cameras. A city will have to submit a “justification report” and show the proposed location isn’t safe or effective with conventional enforcement, doesn’t meet the traffic safety need, has a significant history of crashes and that automated enforcement can manage traffic.
“We just want statewide uniformity,” Gent said. “The study will determine what is the real problem at this location. What are the possible counter measures? It is a process like that.
“Automated traffic enforcement is a possible counter-measure. We contend as an independent agency that automated enforcement should be one of the last things you do, rather than the first thing you do.”
Gent was critical of traffic camera companies that entice cities with their product.
“These companies come in from out of state and offer one solution: Put up a camera,” he said. “That isn’t the solution.”
Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez said he hasn’t followed the rule-making process, and City Attorney Tom Warner said that when the city put a speed camera on River Drive, a traffic safety study was done. Along with the speed camera installation, the speed limit in the area was increased from 35 mph to 40 mph. Red light cameras were located at intersections that averaged six or more crashes per year.
The state won’t regulate the amount of fines but will require an annual report from cities with traffic cameras.