So let's talk about Iowa traffic cameras, shall we? Call 'em what you will, traffic cameras, red light cameras, speeding cameras, "big brother", whatever you call them, we all have an opinion of the cameras and their legitimacy in traffic and speed control.

But here's a question, and I'm being serious (I also have an answer). Do you actually have to pay the fine, if you're unfortunate enough to get busted by one of these cameras?

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To answer this question, I went right to a high-ranking law enforcement officer, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson, who's a great sounding board for Iowa traffic law Q&A.

Before I get to his response, I did not want to just ask him one burning traffic camera question, I also asked a second. And let's start with that question. I've heard it bandied about that with regards to traffic cameras: do they impact my insurance?

Photo by Mauro Sbicego on Unsplash
Photo by Mauro Sbicego on Unsplash

The answer to that from Sheriff Thompson is, well first, a message upfront,

Now I caveat my answer with “I don’t use or enforce speed cameras”, so you might want to check with Chief Fitzgerald for legitimate answers, but here is my understanding...

I will admit, that I have not reached out to Chief Fitzgerald, so the following is Sheriff Thompson's understanding of the law regarding insurance taking a hit:

While it is true that the speed camera citation is not an Iowa Traffic Code Violation, but actually a civil code (municipal/city ordinance) infraction.  If you do not pay them in a timely fashion (the timeframe I am not familiar with… likely 90-120 days), they cannot go against your DOT record or driver’s license like an actual traffic ticket.

So now you can rest assured that as a civil infraction, your insurance should not go up. But what about paying one of these infractions or, not paying it? Sheriff Thompson does not advise tearing up the ticket and throwing it in the trash.

...They can place a civil lien against your license plates, so when you try to renew your registration, the penalty can catch up to you there.  That is but one way that the city can collect the fine… there are several civil remedies available to them.

In other words, if you get a speeding ticket via a traffic camera in Cedar Rapids, the city can come after you. Get one in Waterloo, they can do the same.

The way I see it, there is good news and bad news here. The good news? The ticket is usually cheap(ish) and your insurance company is none the wiser. The bad news is you still have to pay for your lead foot. Sorry.

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