Government

Iowa House committee approves ban on traffic cameras

Traffic travels past the speed camera northbound on Interstate 380 at J Avenue in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. More than 60,000 tickets were issued from that traffic camera location in 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Traffic travels past the speed camera northbound on Interstate 380 at J Avenue in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. More than 60,000 tickets were issued from that traffic camera location in 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The Iowa House Local Government Committee rejected regulating red light and speed cameras before approving a total ban on automated traffic enforcement devices.

The Republican majority approved House Study Bill 512 11-10 Tuesday, sending it to the full House for consideration. The bill would void all local ordinances authorizing the use of traffic cameras as of July 1 and order their removal in eight cities and one county where they are used.

Rep. Gary Carlson, R-Muscatine, chairman of the Transportation Committee and a member of Local Government, voted for a Democratic amendment to create a framework for regulating the use of traffic cameras. The amendment was essentially Senate File 220, which died in the House last year, but still is under consideration in his committee.

“It simply creates a justification process” cities would have to go through before installing traffic cameras, Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, said about the amendment.

Under the amendment, a local government could use traffic cameras only if they are placed in documented high-crash or high-risk locations at which there is a demonstrated safety need for the devices. Justification for cameras must include traffic speeds, posted speed limits, traffic volumes and intersections or roadway geometry, crash history and why the local government believes traffic cameras are the best solution. Fines, which could not be more than those issued by law enforcement officers, would go either to streets or public safety.

According to a February 2017 poll conducted for Redflex, a traffic camera vendor, more than two-thirds of Iowa drivers support the use of the traffic cameras by local law enforcement.

In discussing the amendment and the bill, lawmakers cited support for cameras from law enforcement. However, others cited communication from law enforcement who oppose the cameras.

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“Law enforcement is split,” said Rep. Andy McKean, R-Anamosa, who said he want to see empirical evidence that the cameras make roads and streets safer.

Floor manager Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said the use of cameras results in the law being applied unequally. Unlike people of low or moderate means, he said, people who can afford the citations are free to speed.

Senate Study Bill 3025, which also bans the use of traffic cameras, has been approved by a Judiciary subcommittee and will be considered by the full committee, according to Chairman Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, the bill’s sponsor.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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