Controversy over new traffic camera laws - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Controversy over new traffic camera laws

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- New rules about traffic cameras have police worried about the future of Sioux City's "eyes in the sky" to catch speeders, and red-light runners.

"I'm optimistic that the court systems will rule that the DOT doesn't have the authority to do what they're doing," Captain Mel Williams, Sioux City Police Department said.

The rules, effective Wednesday, basically change who has the authority to decide whether red light and speed cameras are needed in a city, or whether other traffic enforcement methods would be just as effective.

The Iowa DOT worked with the Administrative Rule Review Committee, made up of five Republicans and five Democrats, to write up the rules.

This past Friday, the committee did not vote on the rules, meaning they're official now.

DOT officials say the rules don't outlaw the use of traffic cameras, but place the decision about using them with the state government, instead of the city government.

The language in the rules also requires any new camera installations to be approved at the State level.

"Basically what they do is create a process for new systems, that kind of help justify to make sure that safety is the primary reason for installing the systems. For existing systems, it's kind of a monitoring program, an evaluation to make sure that they're still needed," Steve Gent, Traffic and Safety Director for the Iowa DOT said.

Steve Gent with the Iowa DOT says they'll analyze data to decide whether or not traffic cameras are needed on a city-to-city basis.

Sioux City Police Department officials say that's leaving them with a lot of impending paperwork. Local traffic data and numbers have to be sent into the state on or before May first.

Police Captain Mel Williams says that the way it's written, every other possible method of traffic enforcement must be implemented before red light cameras are used.

He says a lot of the new requirements are leaving some members of the department scratching their heads.

"When they asked us to give them accident data, they provided us the DOT website to go to to pull the numbers. So they're asking for information, we already send all of our accident information to the DOT, they already entered it into their computers. They have it all," Captain Williams said.

Sioux City's revenue from red light camera tickets last year was about 500 thousand dollars, and revenue from the speed cameras on the interstate was at about 4.5 million dollars.

Captain Williams said that when they first installed the cameras, 38 percent of passing cars were traveling at 11 miles over the speed limit.

He says since the cameras were placed on the side of the interstate, that number is down to less than one percent of passing cars.
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