City Council approved 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 recommended 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.
Summary of the Ordinance
The 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 25.9%.
- 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 positive 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.
City Appeal of DOT Decision
The City Council approved the Police Department recommendation to appeal the March 2015 DOT decision to remove and relocate traffic cameras. Appeal documents and the DOT report are available for public review.
- Written Explanation of Issues to Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino
- Supporting Information for Appeal
- DOT Evaluation of Cedar Rapids Automated Traffic Enforcement Report (March 2015)
2015 Annual Report to the Iowa Department of Transportation
- 2015 Annual Report to the Iowa Department of Transportation as required by Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 761-144.7.
- 2016 Annual Report to the Iowa Department of Transportation as required by Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 761-144.7.