At the Tuesday, May 14, 2019 City Council meeting, staff will present an amendment to Chapter 61 of the Municipal Code Regarding Automated Traffic Enforcement and the Means For Challenging an Automated Traffic Enforcement Citation.
After reviewing recent court decisions, staff recommends an ordinance change prior to the reactivation of Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE). Instead of using an Administrative Hearing as a means for contesting an ATE violation, the City will file a Municipal Infraction. This process ensures that the Courts determine liability for the fine.
The City has been successful in court challenges to the ATE program. The ordinance reaffirms recent Iowa Supreme Court and District Court decisions, including:
- The use of ATE advances public interests of traffic safety and safety of emergency responders, as well as the interests of Cedar Rapids taxpayers in cost effective enforcement of traffic laws.
- The use of ATE devices capture an image of only the rear license plate which strikes a desirable balance between public interests and privacy interests of the motoring public.
- The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (Nlets) is a cost effective means for determining ownership of vehicles detected as traveling in violation of traffic laws within the city limits of Cedar Rapids.
- The technology underlying ATE is self-calibrating and reliable, and its accuracy is readily verifiable.
While the upcoming City Council action will be focused on the ordinance change regarding the process for contesting an ATE violation, we want to provide important background information, including:
- History of the ATE program
- Illustration of how the ATE program has reduced both crashes and crashes resulting in injuries
- Scientific research that the ATE program has been an effective law enforcement tool that is supported by national studies
- Demonstration that ATE fines collected are used to enhance public safety in our community
Summary of the Ordinance Change
The current ordinance allows for payment of the fine and allows the registered owner to contest the violation through an Administrative Hearing. If the registered owner is unsuccessful with the Administrative Hearing, the registered owner could pay the fine or ask that a Municipal Infraction be filed.
The proposed ordinance allows for payment of the fine and allows the registered owner the ability to challenge within 30 days if the violation was the result of an exemption listed in the ordinance. Examples include: the vehicle was stolen, the vehicle entered the intersection to avoid an emergency vehicle, vehicle was in funeral procession, or vehicle was stopped by a law enforcement officer and issued a citation for the same violation. If the challenge is unsuccessful or the registered owner fails to pay the fine, the City may file a Municipal Infraction.
Automated Traffic Enforcement History
- The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) sponsored a study through CTRE (Center for Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State University) of the 380 corridor from Wright Brothers Boulevard to the north border of Hiawatha after concerns were raised about the safety of the roadway.
- The safety concerns included the increase in the number of crash incidents, particularly the serious crashes and the increase in traffic volumes. The result was a report entitled Road Safety Audit for I-380 through Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha (2009).
- 40 safety countermeasures were identified in the report; one recommendations was using automated traffic enforcement.
- Traffic cameras were installed in 2010 at dangerous intersections and at the entry and exit points of the “S-curve” on U.S. Interstate 380 where there were a number of serious injury and fatal collisions.
- Traffic cameras on I-380 remained operational until April 26, 2017. Due to a ruling in Polk County District Court that said IDOT had authority over traffic cameras on primary roadways in Iowa, the issuing of citations was discontinued. The ruling affected only primary roadways.
- The City, along with Muscatine and Des Moines, sought further review of the Polk County District Court decision. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of the three cities, stating that IDOT does not have authority to prescribe to local law enforcement how to enforce traffic laws.This meant that the IDOT could not regulate how the City used ATE.
Automated Traffic Enforcement Results
- There has been a 62 percent reduction in crashes on U.S. Interstate 380 that involve injuries since the installation of Automated Traffic Enforcement in the City of Cedar Rapids. In addition, there has been a 37 percent reduction in overall crashes.
- There were an average of 5.13 crashes and 2.2 crashes resulting in injury per month before ATE was used in the City. With ATE, there have been 3.22 crashes and .84 crashes resulting in injury per month.
- There was a 43.2% chance that a crash resulted in an injury before ATEs were in service. After ATEs were activated, the likelihood decreased to 26.0%.
- There has been only one fatal crash from 2010-2017 when ATEs were activated. From 2003-2009, there were 7 fatal crashes with no ATE program in place.
- Since ATEs were shut off on the interstate in May 2017, the number of crashes and crashes resulting in injuries have increased. Since the City stopped issuing citations and using ATEs on I-380 from May 2017 through October 2018, the average number of crashes per month has started to increase and the number of crashes with injuries is also trending upward. There were 17 crashes with personal injuries and 66 total crashes from May 2017-October 2018. There have been no modifications to the Interstate system during the time, including resurfacing or other safety measures. The trend is going upward for both crashes and crashes with injuries.
Studies Supporting Automated Traffic Enforcement
Local results of the postive effect of ATE is backed by national studies:
- On July 25, 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board stated, “Automated speed enforcement is an effective countermeasure to reduce speeding-related crashes, fatalities, and injuries.”
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a report that “speed cameras yield long-term safety benefits.” The study that was released in September 2015 showed that traffic cameras led to long-term changes in driver behavior and substantial reductions in deaths and injuries.
Benefits of Automated Traffic Enforcement
- Traffic cameras monitor the interstate more efficiently and effectively than humans.
- Using ATE allows police officers to respond to other calls for service and public safety concerns.
- Reduces the need for law enforcement officers to make traffic stops in particularly dangerous areas of the interstate.
- The interstate, especially within the S-curve, is a particularly dangerous location for first responders to assist crash victims.
Automated Traffic Enforcement Reactivation Recommendation
- Reactivate ATEs on January 8, 2019 with a warning period (if approved by City Council).
- Enforcement period begins at 12:00 a.m. on February 1, 2019.
- There is no change in the number of cameras or fines. (Camera locations)
- Use ATE revenue towards adding 10 police officer positions and an Administrative Assistant position to process Municipal Infractions. This proposal makes it clear that ATE revenue is being used to enhance public safety. In the current FY19 operating budget, there is no revenue projected from ATE violations. New revenue would fund the police officer positions, which will help police officers address neighborhood concerns and community policing issues.
Additional Police Officer Positions Recommendation
- Recommend hiring 10 additional police officers, including 8 Patrol Officers and 2 Police Community Action Team officers. The Police Academy for the new officers would begin in mid-2019.
- Police officers proactively address neighborhood concerns and community policing issues. Patrol officers have the vast majority of citizen contacts.
- Officers have been asking for additional resources to be more effective with their community outreach and proactive patrol duties. The need for additional officers is supported by data that shows an increasing number of calls for service.
- Total calls for service have increased from 135,504 in 2013 to 146,993 in 2017. The most significant trend is that the number of officer-initiated calls for service is decreasing due to responding to an increasing number of calls for service from citizens.
- PCAT has been operational since January 9, 2016 and has been deployed into neighborhoods to address problems, specifically crime and quality of life issues, with the number one priority being to address gun-violence issues. Based on their significant results, 2 additional PCAT officers would help expand the unit and their emphasis on:
- Identifying individuals responsible for criminal activity.
- Building partnerships with other law enforcement, probation, prosecutors, and community-based resources.
- Active messaging based on actionable intelligence information.