Iowa’s shrinking traffic death toll is reason enough to celebrate, but not sufficient to declare any kind of victory for roadway safety.
A Brady Street fatality early Tuesday reminds us that every traffic death is a tragedy, regardless of trends. Still, Iowa is on track for the lowest number of roadway fatalities in six years, according to the Department of Public Safety. Department representative Sgt. Steve Bright credited safer vehicles, smarter drivers and some enforcement efforts.
But he specifically discredited any impact of automated traffic enforcement cameras.
“I have not seen any evidence that speed cameras decrease fatalities. What I have seen is when motorists are aware of the location of the speed cameras, they slow down, and as soon as they get by them, they speed up.”
Bright, speaking on behalf of his entire department, seems incredulous of evidence like data Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez hoped to share Tuesday with the Iowa Transportation Commission. The commission inexplicably declined to hear from the Iowa police chief who has the most experience with traffic cameras.
It proceeded with recommendations that take traffic camera management away from Davenport and all other Iowa cities and gives it to a state DOT panel. State DOT director Paul Trombino effectively dissed Davenport and other Iowa cities that have carefully implemented automated traffic control: " It's revenue disguised as safety," Trombino proclaimed at the hearing, without even hearing Donchez' pitch.
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Davenport – Iowa’s leader in automated enforcement – has demonstrated safety improvements aided by traffic cameras. We believe traffic cameras – just like cameras used for security surveillance, court appearances and countless other uses – represent essential technology that must be managed, not feared. Davenport police chief Donchez makes a strong case for simple management techniques that slow traffic and keep the focus on safety, not revenue. It should make little difference to state police if speeding motorists slow down for marked cameras or for uniformed officers in squad cars.
Davenport has experienced fewer collisions and injuries because of traffic cameras at selected intersections and roadways. The city has been transparent about the location of the cameras and the ticket revenue they generate. Concerns have been litigated to the state Supreme Court and Davenport made significant changes to improve the program.
State transportation and public safety leaders must not ignore that documented success.