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Iowa DOT Cracks Down On Profit-Driven Speed Cameras
Iowa DOT orders one-third of the photo ticketing cameras removed after safety review.

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) wants ten of the thirty-four traffic cameras in use on state roads to come down. Officials reviewed documentation supplied by Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Muscatine and Sioux City and concluded on Tuesday that too many were not installed for safety purposes.

The orders were based on rules that the department laid out Last year regulating the use of automated ticketing machines on state roads. The regulations are based on the premise that engineering solutions must be implemented before ticketing programs and that cameras should never be considered a "long-term solution" to a traffic safety problem. The principles discourage use of cameras on interstate highways because the amount of pass-through traffic makes it unlikely drivers will be aware the systems are in use, making improvement in driver behavior unlikely.

Sioux City felt so insulted by the move that it sued, knowing its highly profitable Interstate 29 speed camera program would not survive under the administrative rules. The city's prediction proved correct, as state officials on Tuesday found no evidence that the devices were increasing safety.

"The number of annual crashes varies greatly over the past 10 years with specific trends both upward and downward," the DOT report explained. "It is difficult to determine the effect the speed trailers have had on the number of crashes"

For each of the cities, the DOT reports slammed the overemphasis on speed enforcement as the only safety tool in the municipal toolbox.

"The speed at which a driver chose to drive was a primary cause in some of the crashes," the DOT report explained, citing federal data. "Specifically, 8.4 percent were driving too fast for conditions and 4.9 percent were driving too fast for a curve. However, speed was not the primary causation in 86.7 percent of crashes caused by the driver, nor the crashes caused by vehicles or roadway/weather."

Cedar City will have to disable or move most of its highway speed cameras, Muscatine and Des Moines each lost a speed camera, Davenport lost a red light camera, and Council Bluffs was able to keep all its red light cameras, save for the highly profitable one located at South Expressway and 30th Avenue.

"The number of red-light running citations at this location is extremely high: 11,436 in 2010, 7,026 in partial year 2011, 3,054 in partial year 2012 and 9,203 in 2013. These citation numbers are combined from both the eastbound and northbound camera with the eastbound camera accounting for 53% of the citations. Most of these are right-turn-on-red violations which are clearly not a safety concern, see crash diagrams below."

Iowa cities have until April 17 to take down non-compliant camera systems. The DOT report for each city is available in a 2.5mb file at the source link below.

Article Excerpt:
Summary of DOT order and findings:

Cedar Rapids
  • Remove speed camera at First Avenue and Tenth Street East, too close to speed limit change
  • Move Interstate 380 speed camera near Diagonal Drive, too close to speed limit change
  • Remove Interstate 380 speed camera near J Avenue, too far from the area of safety concern
  • Remove Interstate 380 speed camera near First Avenue, too far from the area of safety concern
Council Bluffs
  • Remove the red light camera at South Expressway and 30th Avenue, right turn tickets are not a safety concern
  • Remove the red light camera from Kimberly Road and Elmore Avenue, crashes increased after installation
  • Des Moines
    • Remove the speed camera from Interstate 235 near mile 4.9, crashes were low before installation
  • Muscatine
    • Remove the speed camera from University Drive at US 61, crashes increased from 10 to 11 after activation and too close to speed limit change
  • Sioux City
    • Remove the speed cameras from Interstate 29
    • Do not re-install the red light camera at Gordon Drive and Nebraska Avenue, lacks justification report
    • Remove the Lewis Boulevard and Outer Drive red light camera, crash rate increased from 5.5 to 6.5 after activation
  • Source: PDF File Evaluation of Automated Traffic Enforcement Report (Iowa Department of Transportation, 3/17/2015)

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