Let's end automated traffic tickets

Monday, February 23, 2015

The use of cameras and computer-generated ticketing for speeding and stop light violations should end in Iowa.

The motivation for the practice is more about generating revenue for city governments than about safety.

The cameras take photos of the license plates of violating vehicles, cross reference the license plate numbers with the driver's license numbers of the vehicle owners and mail out tickets to the vehicle owners.

These tickets are not treated as moving violations because there is no proof that the owner of the vehicle was the driver of the vehicle when the violation occurred. The fine is for owning a vehicle that was used in violation of traffic law.

South Dakota has forbidden sharing of state driver's license information with Iowa entities, mostly Sioux City, for purposes of enforcing automated traffic ticketing.

South Dakota officials cited the lack of due process in Iowa's automated traffic enforcement system as reason for deviating from a prior universal understanding that states cooperated in enforcing the traffic laws of other states.

Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner has introduced legislation recently that would also ban Nebraska from cooperating with automated ticketing from Iowa.

Even the Iowa Department of Transportation has questioned the way the automated system is being used on state highways, including the portion of I-29 within the city limits of Sioux City. DOT guidelines require cities to explain how the placement of the cameras address safety concerns at those specific locations.

Sioux City has challenged the DOT requirement in court and that case is headed for the state supreme court. Unfortunately, even if the restriction stands, it would only apply to state highways.

Perhaps, the city of Fort Dodge provides the most blatant example in Iowa of using this technology for generating revenue rather than for improving safety.

In that city, automated speed enforcement equipment is housed in an unmarked white van that is moved from place to place for periods of three days. The location is announced in advance on the city's website and over the local radio station. If improving safety was the purpose of this equipment, the city would not advertise its location to locals and savvy visitors to the city.

We need to end these high tech speed traps.