Why you should slow down when you cross into Iowa

“Welcome to Easygoing” is how a tourist website depicts LeClaire, Iowa, with delightful images of bald eagles, riverboats and the original “American Pickers” antique shop.

But when it comes to speeding, the quaint border town across the Mississippi River from Illinois is anything but relaxed.

In fact, speed cameras on the Iowa side of I-80 and nearby Highway 67 in LeClaire have produced 151,111 citations in less than two years.

Of those tickets — 43% went to Illinoisans, a Freedom of Information Act request to the city shows.

The cameras, installed in 2021, are intended to reduce crashes, Police Chief Shane Themas told the Daily Herald.

They've also generated more than $3.9 million for LeClaire, population 4,710.

The city issued 65,013 speeding tickets to vehicles with Illinois plates between March 5, 2021, when cameras went live, and Dec. 31, 2022.

“Our goal is to have zero citations and zero accidents,” Themas said.

The city posted signs alerting drivers to the devices because “we want people to know where the cameras are at and we want them to abide by the speed limit when they travel through our community,” he said.

“They were not placed randomly,” Themas added, noting cameras were installed at “high-risk” areas on the two corridors.

The speed on I-80 dips from 70 mph in Illinois to 65 mph in Iowa.

The city dinged 27,055 drivers $25 each for violations of 6 to 10 miles over the limit, records show.

The majority of vehicles, 122,406, were issued $75 fines for driving 11 to 20 miles over the limit.

The steepest penalties are $250 for 26 to 30 miles over the limit and $500 for 30 miles over, which affected 164 and 51 drivers, respectively.

Overall, citations dropped from 83,766 in 2021 to 67,345 in 2022; Illinoisans received 36,528 tickets in 2021 and 28,485 in 2022.

“It certainly has nothing to do with the way an Illinois driver drives,” Themas said. “I think it probably has to do with a lot of factors like location and being right on the border with the state of Illinois.”

Studies and opinions diverge on speed cameras. Federal data shows speed is a factor in one-third of all crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds raising speeds causes higher fatality rates and that cameras can reduce crashes.

The National Motorists Association argues speed cameras can give false readings and are typically placed in locations with high traffic and “under-posted speed limits.”

One ticketed driver commented to the Quad-City Times that “I am happy to report that I will never return to LeClaire, Iowa, again. I will spend my tourist money somewhere else.”

LeClaire City Administrator Dennis Bockenstedt said 90% of net proceeds are going to capital projects such as street repairs and 10% to economic development. The camera contractor, Sensys Gatso Group, also receives a share of revenue.

LeClaire reported 50 traffic accidents in 2019, 60 in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began and 43 in 2021. Data for 2022 is not available yet.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers studied speed and red-light camera sites in Chicago and reported overall fatal and injury crashes decreased by 12% after the devices were deployed. They also found locations that were unaffected or where crashes worsened, and that cameras near freeways produced the most tickets.

Also, minority communities were disproportionately affected by the devices, researchers said.

“It's a mixed bag,” said P.S. Sriraj, director of UIC's Urban Transportation Center. “Speed cameras can have an impact, but it has to be messaged the right way,” with advance notification and digital messaging.

Also, standards are “not uniform across the country. Different states, different jurisdictions, different cities — they have different approaches to these cameras,” he said.

Got an opinion on speed cameras? Drop an email to

Gridlock alert

Route 25 drivers should expect delays and lane closures starting today with resurfacing scheduled between East Dundee and I-90 in Elgin. Work wraps up this summer.

One more thing

An influx of federal cash will bring $50 million to rehabilitate and expand Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport. And $350 million has been earmarked to help fund extending the CTA's Red Line south to 130th Street.

Lawmakers seek delay on rail merger vote after Ohio derailment crisis

New IDOT warning sign no match for car flying off Route 20 in Elgin

'Major traffic' ahead as Kennedy Expressway construction begins in March

Speed cameras on the Iowa side of I-80 in LeClaire and on nearby Highway 67 are racking up thousands of citations - and more than 40% of them are going to Illinois drivers. Courtesy of the Quad-City Times
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.