It may seem backwards: the trend of states and cities with speed cameras has increased, not decreased, but one state is thinking about backpedaling and removing some speed cameras.
According to an AP story, however, Iowa is considering just that: removing speed cameras. According to the story, the cameras produce more than 200,000 tickets and $13 million in fines annually, or more than $4 per Iowa resident. But the practice is finally triggering backlash with some complaining about runaway government oversight.
Responding to those comments, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's administration has looked at new limits that could shut down many of the cameras but allowing temporary use of the devices only as a last resort to address safety problems. The plan has set off a wave of discussing that reflects how prized the cameras have become in city halls and for city budgets.
"How can anybody say that they are not effective or they are not having an impact" on safety, said Wayne Jerman, police chief in Cedar Rapids, where cameras scan a stretch of Interstate 380 as it curves through the city. He said the city has seen no traffic fatalities in that historically dangerous stretch and far fewer accidents since the cameras were installed three years ago. "To me and the other chiefs, it just seems that our arguments aren't good enough."
At the center of the dispute is Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino, a Branstad appointee who says the rules will ensure that safety, not money, is the factor behind the cameras' use.
"Overall, what I'm sensing is that the public has a concern. What we're trying to do is make sure that concern is heard and addressed," said Trombino.
The rules would allow municipalities to ask for permission to use speed and red-light cameras only after other "engineering and enforcement solutions" had been tried. Cities would have to show that the cameras are targeting "documented high-crash or high-risk locations" and would have to justify their renewal every year. A legislative committee will review the new rules before they go into effect, as early as February.
The new rules are hugely popular among some motorists and their advocates. "I think it's unusual and it's also refreshing. I'd like to see more state DOTs around the country take that stance," said Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that lobbies against the cameras.
The Iowa Republican Party, now led by backers of the libertarian Ron Paul, calls for abolishing the cameras in its party platform. State Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican who has pushed to ban the cameras for years, said younger voters "just can't stand these things" because of the invasion of privacy and way the violations are issued.
"This stuff has gotten out of control and I'm glad people have woken up and said we need to make some changes," he said.