Davenport city leaders say traffic cameras do more than generate revenue

Traffic cameras in the City of Davenport may be here to stay, if officials can show that they do more than make money.

May 1st was the deadline the Iowa Department of Transportation gave cities to prove that the cameras do more than just generate revenue.

When drivers speed through a camera location or blow through a red light, a ticket gets sent to the traffic violator in the mail. The revenue from traffic lights then goes to the police department, into a general fund that pays to keep the department running.

That revenue, however, has been getting smaller over the years.

In 2011, Davenport reported those cameras generated $1,344,214 in revenue. In 2013, the cameras only generated about $813,733 in revenue from tickets.

City administrators say the declining revenue shows drivers are being more careful when traveling through those intersections, to avoid getting a ticket.

“I think we’ve taken away the incentive for people to try to speed through them or run the red light,” Davenport’s traffic engineer, Gary Staz, said.

Staz says the safety aspect of the cameras outweighs the revenue the city gets from them.

“We’re down to one (crash involving running a red light) per year at Kimberly and Elmore, instead of seven,” said Statz. “At Kimberly and Welcome Way from 2001 to 2004 we averaged 8 red light running crashes per year, with the worst being 11 in 2002. Now we’re averaging 2.67 per year over the last three years.”

The cameras are placed at four intersections in Davenport.  City statistics show crash reports have decreased by 85 percent since the cameras were first installed in 2011.

“I’m not going to be happy until it’s 100 percent,” said Statz.

The statistics are now in the hands of the Iowa DOT, which will review them and then decide if the cameras are making the intersections safer.

“It’s something that we just think is a really good thing for Iowans, that we’re making sure that these systems are about safety; and if there’s anything else we should be doing, we’re going to look at it together,” said Steve Gent, Director of the IDOT Office of Traffic & Safety. “It’s really a system where we want to work with the cities and come up with good solutions.”

One News 8 viewer said he does not believe the cameras always are fair when tickets are administered. The viewer, who is a retired police officer, said his daughter was written a ticket because her front bumper crossed a roadway stop line at a red light.

“I think that cameras have a place, but the people running the cameras should have more caution when writing the tickets,” said the retired officer.

He also noted that he would like to see the revenue generated by the cameras go to funds like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and educational programs for teens.

Previous reports indicated that city officials had until May 1 to present their statistics to the department.

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