Speed Camera Fines Begin Today
No more Mr. Nice Guy: As of today, Montgomery County will be fining motorists who drive more than 10 mph above the speed limit where the speed cameras are in place. The grace period during which only warnings were issued has ended. The City of Rockville also began its crackdown this week.
Del. Bill Bronrott of Bethesda, who sponsored the legislation that allowed Montgomery County and several municipalities to begin the program, joined some of the police chiefs involved in it and road safety advocates today at Meadow Hall Elementary School on Rockville's Twinbrook Parkway.
The parkway is one of the places where you'll find the cameras, loaded aboard vans marked with a red, white and blue "Safe Speed" logo. While the name "parkway" might call up visions of a wide commuter route, Twinbook at this point is a neighborhood street lined with homes and the school. That's what the tightly written law calls for: The cameras can be set up on residential streets or in school zones, where the speed limit is 35 mph or less. Here's ">a link to more information about the program.
As the chiefs and safety advocates, including Perry Mulsteff, who's son, Sean, died in a high-speed car crash, were endorsing the operation, I thought back to last week's unveiling in the District of the Pace Car program, a safety minded effort in which neighborhood residents pledge to drive no faster than the 25 mph limit in their communities. In exchange, they get "Pace Car" stickers they can afix to their back windows. These days, it seems, a driver needs an excuse to explain the odd habit of operating a motor vehicle in a safe manner.
I salute the Pace Car program and the 400 volunteers who have taken the pledge, but I also think a well-regulated government intervention like the Montgomery program, with its $40 fines, is an appropriate way to protect drivers and walkers, including school children.
In the Iraq and Afghanistan fighting, we debate whether there are enough "boots on the ground" to achieve our aims. Domestically, the police forces don't have enough wheels on the pavement to achieve our goal of keeping the streets safe. Volunteer efforts like Pace Car are most welcome, but we shouldn't have to rely on them. The speed cameras -- a proven technology adopted to a well-publicized enforcement program -- will extend the reach of the police.
Montgomery Police Chief Thomas Manger and his colleagues from Rockville and Gaithersburg promised to take back and hold the streets. Cameras will remain in neighborhoods until the behavior of drivers changes measurably, they said.
The program is much more appropriately constructed than the District's speed camera operation to counter the complaint that such operations are gotcha efforts designed to raise money.
"The purpose here is to change driver behavior," Manger said.
There's a lot of behavior to change: During the grace period, county police issued 4,545 warnings to the owners of vehicles photograped going more than 10 mph over the speed limit. The highest speeed recorded was 76 mph. Multiple warnings were sent to 195 vehicle owners.
On Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville police units operating near the school issued 627 warnings in 18 hours, or an average of 17 warnings per hour.
"Clearly," Manger said, "we've got a problem."
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