Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Speed Camera Issue

Recently statistics were announced about revenues from speed cameras in Montgomery County.  To date millions of dollars of revenue have been realized from these seemingly innocuous metal poles with cameras.  A camera in Olney along Georgia Avenue northbound was noted to the one with the highest revenue, much to the chagrin of many motorists.  Some have bemoaned what they see as a sweetheart contract with the company which maintains the cameras and keeps about $16.00 of the $40.00 ticket assessed.  County officials say this frees up manpower for other more important tasks, as the vendor company monitors and calibrates the lights, resets the cameras and downloads the images.  They then process the digital picture of the license plate and car, have the police review it, and send the notices to motorists for payment of this fee.  

A more recent development has been the mobile cameras chained to trees or posts along a roadside somewhere near you.  These squat metal boxes are not as easy to spot as the triad of silver poles for the fixed spots, so they are likely to be money makers.  Check Crabbs Branch Way near Iroquois, and Route 108 near the Laytonsville Fire Station, if you like to see one….if they have not been moved already!  County government is not the only department using these resources; municipalities such as Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg and the City of Rockville have all been successful with speed camera placement.

Although some say no one likes the cameras, apparently they are appreciated by the police officials who market them as an important tool in pedestrian and driver safety.  Originally touted as a safety measure in school zones, their placement has now been seen in areas far from schools.  Recently changes in state law have mandated that those near schools not be in play outside of school hours.  Police statistics do indicate a definite decrease in average speeds in the county.  The funds were supposed to be targeted for pedestrian safety, but the increase in cameras and collections have brought many to question those limited targeted uses.  After all, just how many count down walk lights can a county install?   Cross walks have been expanded, pedestrian safety education has been increased and fewer people have died in pedestrian accidents recently, so some changes have been made.  Still, some of the busier neighborhoods for street traffic still have issues with people crossing in the middle of the block to get to a store, catch up with friends or catch an arriving bus.  These spur of the moment crossings are the ones least considered and most hazardous.

There are a couple of groups trying to ban the cameras, claiming they are an infringement on individual rights and adding to the "Big Brother" aspect which is increasing in today's world.  Others say "just shut up and drive the speed limit!"   The county is dependent on the revenues, so there may be more cameras to join the approximately 120 cameras currently in place.  It is doubtful that they will be shut down and numbers may even increase.  Others would wish that other wider span cameras be used to track crime, not drivers.

What do you think?  Is this fee a hidden "drivers tax" as is claimed by some?  Have you been caught by the cameras?  Do you think they slow down traffic as one drives ten miles under the speed limit when approaching a known camera site -- all those in the know, that is!   What would you suggest as a solution to drivers driving too fast, the need to cross the county in a reasonable amount of time and pedestrian safety? 
While there is a list of camera sites on-line, are they really accurately described as governmental spying?   Let’s hear your thoughts on this issue.


  1. While I don't like speed cameras -- especially because nit-wits who know where they are slam on their brakes and drive 10mph past them, nowhere near the actual speed limit -- people should not be exceeding the posted speed limit. Those who think it's a "driver's tax" are lead-footed speeders. No one likes to get caught breaking the law, but that's what it is. If you got caught, you deserved it.

  2. I'd like to see fines for misdemeanors like speeding be levied as a percentage of income with recidivists charged increasing amounts.

    Does it make sense that a minimum wage worker quakes in fear at a $75 traffic ticket but a six-figure salary professional writes it off as the cost of a thrilling joyride?

    This would never pass a legislative body, so whether it is a more equitable, effective solution is admittedly moot.


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