Iowa State Patrol cars

Iowa State Patrol cars on Interstate 80 in 2008.

John Schultz

DES MOINES — Iowa drivers likely will be seeing more Iowa State Patrol cruisers along the interstate highway system in the coming months.

But it’s not because the state has expanded its vehicle fleet or hired more troopers. Instead, it’s an administrative change ordered by new Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner K. Brian London to put the ISP logo and emergency light bars atop about half of the 70 previously unmarked cars that patrol Iowa’s highways.

Patrol spokesman Sgt. Scott Bright said the change is designed to increase the visibility of law enforcement officers on the state’s most-traveled roads.

“The governor wants more visibility, and as a department, we think the more visible we are out there, maybe people will start obeying the speed limit a little bit better,” Bright said. “We believe that it will help out because people will start seeing more officers out there.”

However, the state isn’t completely doing away with unmarked cars, Bright said, noting that each patrol district will retain one and those where interstate highways pass through their boundaries will still have two unmarked vehicles.

“They will still be out there,” he said, noting the state will have about three dozen unmarked cars patrolling highways.

“They’re the ones who are going to get the high speeds out there on the interstates because they look like an average car and (drivers) don’t know they’re unmarked,” Bright said. “They’re a great tool for us to have out there (because) people pull up right beside you and they’re texting on the phone — with a marked unit they wouldn’t be doing that.”