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AASHTO Journal

Iowa DOT Steps Back From Regulating ATE Systems

​A 6-0 ruling by Iowa's Supreme Court on April 27 declared that the Iowa Department of Transportation does not have the authority to regulate automated traffic enforcement (ATE) cameras without authorization from the state legislature.

As a result, the agency said it will no longer enforce its ATE rules and will not require municipalities that use overhead ATE systems on the state highway system to justify their placement or use based on traffic safety considerations.

"We respect and uphold the court's decision, which places regulation of ATE systems in the hands of the legislature," noted the Iowa DOT in a statement.

Also, based on that ruling, the agency said the three cities involved in the case – Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Muscatine – may "immediately resume operation of the cameras we ordered removed if they chose to."

Iowalogo.pngHowever, the Iowa DOT noted municipalities that wish to establish ATE systems must still obtain a right-of-way permit to physically affix cameras and other ATE system hardware to state highway structures.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), red light running crashes are responsible for approximately 260,000 injuries and 750 fatalities each year and due to limited resources, many municipal governments are turning to "automated enforcement" to reduce both red light violations and speeding without diverting law enforcement resources from other areas.

The group said that as of the fall of 2017 over 400 U.S. communities use red light cameras, while over 130 communities use cameras to enforce speed limits. State laws regarding automated enforcement generally establish guidelines for municipal governments, NCSL added, with some state laws limiting the use of such cameras to certain cities while others permit their use statewide. 

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