New report: Traffic cameras only effective in certain areas - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New report: Traffic cameras only effective in certain areas

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The nonprofit news organization IowaWatch analyzed several studies from across the nation and found traffic cameras do improve safety when they're used to target a specific problem.

According to officials in Cedar Rapids, that's what the cameras there do.

The cameras have been running in Cedar Rapids for about four years. Still, people have conflicting opinions.

"There are a lot of situations where the speed cameras don't have the ability to discern as a normal officer would, things like the traffic or what time of day it is, things like that," said Tony Cook, who lives in Cedar Rapids.

"They promote safety, reduce accidents, and catch people breaking the law and I don't have a problem with them," said Dave Schoettmer, who lives in Palo. 

The City of Cedar Rapids says the cameras have improved safety.

For example, on Interstate 380, officials say the number of crashes went from around 80 in two years before the cameras to around 70 in three years after. They also say the crashes aren't as severe.

"There have not been been any fatalities -- no traffic fatalities -- in any of the areas where there's traffic enforcement in place," said Greg Buelow, Public Safety Communications Coordinator.

Critics have often said cameras are just a way to generate city revenue.

In Cedar Rapids, the cameras brought in more than $5.3 million last year, which is used to offset property taxes supporting police operations.

While some claim cameras actually decrease safety at intersections, IowaWatch analyzed several studies and found cameras can increase safety when used at the right intersections.

"There has been a drop in the number of accidents at those intersections," said Buelow. "All 10."

Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque have all discussed adding traffic cameras. Iowa City has an ordinance on the books banning them.
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