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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.

Montgomery van.jpg Sticker on back of van announces speed camera operation. (Robert Thomson)

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.

Chief Manger.jpg Chief Manger describes program as Del. Bronrott listens. (Robert Thomson)

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."

By Robert Thomson  |  May 2, 2007; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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These speed cameras are yet one more step toward big brother government. It's time to stop complaining and start a revolution. We can start with sabotaging the vans and red light cameras posted at intersections. Enough is Enough.

Posted by: pj4521111 | May 2, 2007 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The UK is now using cameras and microphones to detect when trouble might erupt. A software program monitors voices and detects when changes in voice such as decibel level and speed at which words are spoken occur, notifying the monitor that trouble may be imminent. I'm a law and order guy, but we want to live in a society where our voice level is monitored on the streets?? Speed cameras just take us one step closer.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 2, 2007 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Two thoughts come to mind here:

1) 10 mph is an awfully large tolerance--that's 40% in a 25 mph zone and over 28% in a 35 mph zone.

2) Why broadcast what your tolerance level is? Telling everyone they can drive 34 mph in a 25 mph school zone (or 44 in a 35) seems to defeat the purpose having the zone in the first place.

OK, another thought: How many of the cars photographed during the grace period were Montgomery County police cars?

Posted by: cb | May 2, 2007 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Thank You. It is about time. The speeding in my neighborhood is out of control. Going 50 and 60 in a 30 mph zone in front of an elementary school is the norm. Something had to be done. Drivers are going too fast to stop for a red light in my neighborhood. Several a month slide into the intersection because they can't stop for the light. Drivers in the cross-lanes risk being hit everyday. Thanks MCPD!

Posted by: Jon | May 2, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding us, PJ4521111? What kind of idiotic comment is that? Sabotage the vans? Just move to Cuba, instead. You might be happy in a place like that. Good grief!

Posted by: Jon | May 2, 2007 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Big Brother is watching, and he wants to know what kind of car you drive, where you take it, and who you take with you! Did you know that most of the products you buy every day have a microscopic tracking chip in them? So does your money! The gov't knows where you take money out, and where you end up spending it. Unacceptable!

Posted by: scout | May 2, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

This is just another step to get you used to being monitored. Now they start real young kids -- they monitor the schools. Oh, you say you're not afraid because you don't have anything to hide? This is another form of identity theft, only this time they're stealing the information of where you go, what you do, who you do it with, nothing is sacred.

Posted by: scout | May 2, 2007 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Why use technology to penalize peoplewhen the same type of technology can just "talk" to intelligent cars and just not allow them to speed in the first place.

Speed limits for safety, what a crock.

Its all about the dollars.

Posted by: kme | May 2, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I drive in a different city nearly every week all year long. It is a very rare sight to see even one person obeying local speed limits, using signals to change lanes, or extending any courtesy to another driver. All that fuel being wasted by speeders comes at the cost of the lives of young soldiers fighting for it in the Middle East. I seem to be the only person in this nation that understands that fact.

Posted by: thw2001 | May 2, 2007 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Catch speeders the ol fashioned way. No fair.

Posted by: Citizen U | May 3, 2007 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Speed cameras are no different from an officer giving you a ticket for breaking the law, which you are doing if you are going even 1mph over the speed limit. The idea is to curb the amount of egregious violations, i.e. 60mph in a 35mph zone, which are truly dangerous. Area municipalities understand that the speed limits, while the law, are not necessarily the best for all situations so there are target enforcement thresholds (
The point is to slow down on local roads. Stop making excuses for driving faster. Most of the time lights will stop you. You waste gas and your time is maybe a minute or two less than driving the speed limit.

Posted by: Sivad | May 3, 2007 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I drove in the UK this weekend, where there are speed cameras galore. They don't prevent speeding. People figure out where they are, slow down to pass them, and speed back up, just like a conventional speedtrap with the baconmobile parked on the side of the road.

Going over the speed limit is not inherently a problem, either, except in residential areas and school zones. Anyone ignoring the speed limit in a school zone deserves a hefty fine. But typically speed cameras aren't situated for that sort of thing. Look at DC. They often put a mobile speed camera on I-295 just north of Malcolm X Avenue. The speed limit is 50 mph, but 65 mph is a more reasonable speed. Everyone does 65, too. They see that car on the side, slow down to 45, then take off again when they're past. You CANNOT convince me that there is ANY rational reason, other than revenue, for a 55-mph speed limit on I-270, for example. Speed cameras on most roads exist for one reason and one reason only: Greed in Annapolis (or in the Wilson Building). We've had the utter nonsense that "speeding" is "bad" shoved down our throats ever since Congress enacted the bogus 55-mph law in 1974 and a lot of people are stupid enough to believe that "speeding" (defined as going faster than the number on the sign) is dangerous, so some people therefore accept that a speed camera is a good thing. I call BS. Going 55 mph on the Beltway is the dangerous thing!!!!! Try it sometime and you'll see what I mean. It's time for government to stop trying to enforce the unenforceable.

Posted by: Rich | May 3, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

"10 mph is an awfully large tolerance--that's 40% in a 25 mph zone and over 28% in a 35 mph zone."

A 10-mph tolerance is really more like 5 mph, though. Some sort of cushion is almost always allowed, including by cops running radar, to account for speedometer error, given that a lot of cars' speedometers read a little bit low or a little bit high (that is, your speedometer might say 37 mph when you're doing 41, but the average driver has no way to know this). It's fairly unusual for a speedometer to be off by as much as 10 mph, though; the most likely scenario would be some of these kids who put the wrong size tyres on their cars when they put on those ugly spoilers and noisy mufflers. If you put on the wrong size tyre without getting a different size wheel, your speedometer will be off because the number of revolutions changes.

Posted by: Rich | May 3, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

First, if you're giving a 10 mph grace, then just raise the speed limit. The posted speed limit is 35, not 45 yet the police are allowing people to still break the law.

Second, if you want to get rid of all of these speed cameras, speed traps, etc., SLOW DOWN. It's not Big Brother, it's the idiots that speed that cause this. Stop complaining about cameras here and there, if there wasn't a problem they wouldn't be needed but there is a problem and it's cheaper than hiring more and more police officers to drive more and more police cars that take up more and more gas. See, it helps to keep taxes down too.

Besides, who wouldn't want to have someone else pay their taxes for them? I welcome speed traps in my neighborhood where I've almost been run over twice by the same person. Bring on the cameras, catch these idiots before they mow me or someone else down.

Posted by: Jarrod | May 3, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Going 55mph is fine as long as you are in the rightmost lane and NOT in the leftmost lane. At least in Maryland, as the link I posted describes, the posted speed limit is not always right at all times within reason, which is why there is a tolerance. All automated speed enforcement in this area activates at 11mph above the posted speed limit so don't go BELOW the speed limit when you see a camera. Local government is being more than generous with this. My problem is not with the enforcement, but where the money goes. Of course that is an entirely different topic.

Posted by: Sivad | May 3, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Photoblocker spray - it works.
Open 24/7. 1-800-736-9318

Posted by: ceefer66 | May 3, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Photoblocker does NOT work with the new digital cameras. Notice in DC that the big gray cameras are being replaced with smaller white ones. Those are digital. Also with photoblocker, the finish becomes dull yellow over time so you are back to square one. Just slow down!

Posted by: Sivad | May 3, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"Also with photoblocker, the finish becomes dull yellow over time so you are back to square one. Just slow down! "

That's why God made radar detectors, and I do use one. If they have a right to set speed traps, I have a right to know where they are.

As for your order to "Just slow down!", I frankly don't respect artificially low and predatory speed limits.

And I'll certainly not "slow down" when everyone else is on my bumper. Something about common sense.

Posted by: CEEAF | May 3, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

"That's why God made radar detectors, and I do use one. If they have a right to set speed traps, I have a right to know where they are."

Well, radar detectors are illegal in DC and Virginia. I do like Maryland's strategy much better than DC and Virginia, even though in NoVA the State Troopers will pretty much ignore you if you are doing less than 15mph over on the limited access roads. But I believe the issue was with local roads. You should not be going 15 over in the city, residential areas, school zones, etc. This is exactly why there are speed traps and photo enforcement because people feel they have the right to abuse the speed limit. Of all the audacity. Going the speed limit improves fuel economy by 20%. With $4/gal gas coming, that alone should move folks to lay off the gas pedal

Posted by: Sivad | May 3, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the cameras but not the penalty. If this is truly about safety, then make the fine zero dollars but slap 3 points on your license.

Posted by: Josey | May 4, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I know DC's camera program is not part of any ticket reciprocity with other jurisdictions. Is Montgomery County's the same way? That is, I read on the site Dr. Gridlock linked that the tickets are considered civil matters, not criminal (which is how they rob you of due process). In that case, I gather that Virginia would not suspend your license for simply throwing the ticket in the trash, and that as long as you don't drive that car into Maryland you might be fairly safe from ever having to pay it?

Posted by: Rich | May 4, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"Of all the audacity. Going the speed limit improves fuel economy by 20%. With $4/gal gas coming, that alone should move folks to lay off the gas pedal "

Going at cruising speed (55mph on most cars) is MAXIMUM efficiency and gives the most fuel economy, not driving at some ridiculously low sspeed limit. Don't believe me? Read up on it or ask a friend who drives.

I really don't care about "$4/gallon gas". One of my vehicles is a 6-cylinder, manual transmission (you know what that is?) sedan than get 30 mpg on the highway.

Whenver I drive to see clients - and sometimes I use my SUV just to mess with the enviro-nuts and car-haters - I'm reimbursed for my mileage by my employer. That more than covers the gas. Sometimes I even make money on the deal.

Nice try.

Posted by: CEEAF | May 4, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree with CEEAF about the $4 per gallon gas--who cares? Realistically, in the DC area that's not going to make a difference.

Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that the average driver puts in 15 gallons per fillup and that he fills up 3 times per month. (The octane level, and for that matter whether he uses gas or diesel, is irrelevant in this model--what matters is the price per gallon because we're looking at the cost per year.)

Suppose he's paying $3 per gallon. That's $45 per fillup (15 gallons at $3 per fillup) and $1620 per year (3 fillups per month, multiplied by 12 months per year, multiplied by $45 per fillup).

Suppose he's paying $4 per fillup. That's $60 per fillup and $2160 per year, using the same factors to work the equations.

The difference between $3 a gallon and $4 a gallon under this model is $540 per year. I recognize that the model is very simple and doesn't account for possible vacations, traffic variations, etc., but it's probably a relatively reasonable overall estimate. For the AVERAGE DC-area driver, $540 per year is NOT a lot of money. I believe the average annual income in Fairfax County was $90,000 a year as of the last census. That's "average," meaning a lot of people make more. I assume Maryland and DC are similar, especially Montgomery County and upper Northwest DC (Spring Valley and the like). That means you've got a fair number of people making over $100,000 a year, and probably a fair number making over $200,000 a year. $540 per year is NOT a lot of money when you make $200,000 or more per year.

I'm not going to say anything about where I fall on the spectrum other than to say that the conclusion stated in the sentence immediately preceding this one is based on personal experience. Ultimately, the raw price of fuel alone doesn't matter when the difference in price is this minimal. (I should mention diesel, too. Diesel often costs more per gallon, but the diesel cars are so fuel-efficient that you save money anyway. I drove a diesel car some 400 miles in the UK last weekend and averaged 38.1 mpg.) While I don't mean to endorse anything Al Gore says, I have to admit that IF you subscribe to his theory that we need to reduce the amount people drive, you have to raise the gas tax by a substantial amount per gallon. Unless you do this, the financial hit isn't enough to matter.

Using the numbers I set out above (36 fillups a year, 15 gallons per fillup), the cost per year for gas would vary as follows. I use 88¢ a gallon as the baseline because that's the cheapest I recall in the DC area in recent memory. I cite $3.23 because that was the cost per gallon for 93 octane at the Shell station on Van Dorn Street on my way to work this morning.

88¢--$475.20 per year
$1.00--$540 per year
$1.50--$810 per year
$2.00--$1080 per year
$2.50--$1350 per year
$3.00--$1620 per year
$3.23--$1744.20 per year
$3.50--$1890 per year
$4.00--$2160 per year
$4.50--$2430 per year
$5.00--$2700 per year
$5.50--$2970 per year
$6.00--$3240 per year

Just for the sake of comparison, last weekend in the UK I paid 95.9p per litre for diesel. There are 3.78 litres in a US gallon; that means I paid £3.625 per US gallon, and at the prevailing exchange rate of £1 equalling $2, that works out to $7.25 a gallon. Using my model above, that's $3915 a year; compared to the price I saw today, you're talking an extra $2170.80 per year for gas. Again, not a totally onerous sum of money, but enough that it would make me pause and reconsider. Unless you start monkeying around with the price such that it starts costing over $1000 a year more to drive, it's not going to put enough of a dent in the wallet for most people to care......and I should also note that I doubt most people are either motivated or intelligent enough to sit down and reason through the annual cost in the way I just did. Most people will just pay it and then suddenly scratch their heads and go, "Huh...I wonder where all my money went."

Posted by: Rich | May 4, 2007 9:51 PM | Report abuse

And I'll be sittin with all my oil friends in Texas saying, "It's right here dummies!!! I distracted you with an illegal war so we could get richer!"

Posted by: G. W. B. | May 7, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

What is so hard about slowing down? Allowing for 10 mph over the speed limit is more than reasonable. If people would use common sense and police themselves there would be no need for speed or red light cameras. People are simply too selfish and inattentive when driving and simply do not take it seriously.

Posted by: FL | May 9, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

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