According to a Feb. 4 Journal story, Sioux City traffic cameras each day catch an average of 56 speeders on Interstate 29 and each month catch hundreds of drivers who run a red light.
We want to see fewer drivers speeding and running red lights because decreases in those numbers mean safer streets.
A ban on traffic cameras in Iowa - something passed by the Senate last week - would, we believe, have the opposite effect. Without the deterrent impact cameras have on drivers who have received a citation and don't want another one and on drivers who don't want to get their first one, we believe dangerous speeding on I-29 and running red lights only would increase. Less-safe streets would result.
Yes, traffic cameras produce money. So what? So do cops who write tickets. Should we ban cops who write tickets?
Sioux City uses traffic cameras because it can’t afford to have a police officer park along I-29 (plus, having officers pull speeders over on the interstate presents its own set of safety concerns) and at every accident-prone intersection 24-7. As they do elsewhere, traffic cameras augment the work law enforcement performs in keeping our cities as safe for drivers as possible. According to Police Chief Rex Mueller, the No. 1 issue his department hears about from the public is traffic safety.
Cameras generate money because a problem exists. If cameras in our city work the way they should and lead to increased compliance, revenue from them should fall over time. In fact, we hope it does because fewer speeders and less driving through red lights is good.
Because we believe, as does our local police chief and the local police chief before him, traffic cameras improve public safety, we prefer speed and red-light cameras remain legal traffic enforcement tools within a uniform set of rules, including fines. To this end, we support a bill the Senate (ironically) passed, but the House didn't, last year because we believe it's a reasonable compromise on these divisive devices. That bill kept traffic cameras in place, but required local officials to justify placement of cameras on state and local roads and allowed the equipment only in high-risk and high-crash areas. Under the bill, money generated from traffic fines would have to be spent on road construction projects or public safety.
The House should pass and advocate for a strategy of traffic camera regulation this session.
As for constitutional concerns about traffic cameras, we are comfortable with letting the courts settle those questions.
In our minds, a ban of traffic cameras not only allows, but almost encourages more drivers to speed and run red lights. That's not exactly a worthwhile goal.