When operational, Cedar Rapids officials unequivocally predicted that by issuing moving citations its Automated Traffic Enforcement (“ATE”) cameras would condition driver behavior to obey traffic laws, and thereby result in increased safety. Thus, over time, the issuance of citations would decrease.
Such prediction has been starkly erroneous to the detriment of vehicle owners who have had tens of millions of dollars in fines levied, to the benefit of the City and its for-profit corporate partner, GATSO, USA. The proof is found in data generated by the City’s own ATE program.
Claims that traffic has slowed along I-380 as result of traffic cameras operation are disproved by the following facts which pertain to the issuance of citations, as reported by the City to the Iowa Department of Transportation (“IDOT”).
In 2011 (first year following ATE installation), traffic cameras along I-380 issued 91,966 speed citations. Between 2011 and 2015, (most current City report), there has been a continued trend of increase. In 2015 the cameras issued 131,242 citations, an overall increase of 43 percent! More compromising, Gazette editorial published February 18 found that the Legislative Services Agency reported 154,323 citations for FY16, an even higher increase equating to 68%!!!
Continued citation increase (vs. decrease) denotes a complete failure to modify driver behavior, as well as impact safety.
To counter this dilemma, those who support ATE devices have asserted that citation increase is due to expanded development which has produced more traffic. However, IDOT data refutes such claim. Annual average daily traffic counts available during years noted only show a 2.2 percent increase of vehicular travel along I-380 near J Avenue NE, and only 3.7 percent near Fourth Avenue SW.
Without speed reduction there simply cannot be any relationship to alleged companion accident reduction. Why? Because traffic cameras have only one potential (but failed) contributing influence associated with accidents, that which results from excessive speed.
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Many other factors affect accident occurrence, such as driver impairment / distraction, inclement weather, poor roadway surface or obstruction, mechanical failure, etc. Accident reduction along I-380 is far more likely to occur with improvement of these factors. Design of the “S-curve” may likewise be at fault with exit / entrance ramps too close to one another, steep entrance / exit ramp grade, visibility obstruction, etc.
The utter failure of traffic cameras to perform as intended is reason why compromise to regulate continued usage makes no sense. The prudent legislative action is to ban all ATE Cameras.
• Gary Hughes of Marion is a grant administrator with the East Central Iowa Council of Governments and was previously employed by the city of Cedar Rapids as an urban planner.