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D.C on pace to issue 700k speed camera tickets in 2013

Wednesday - 4/3/2013, 5:24pm  ET

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia issued more than 700,000 speed camera tickets last fiscal year, netting the city about $78.8 million dollars -- a record high.

In 2013, D.C. is on pace to match those numbers, according to documents obtained by WTOP.

"These numbers are simply astonishing. We see the double of speed camera tickets in the District from FY 2011 to FY 2012 and now that trend seems to be holding for FY 2013," says John Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs.

Since October 1, the start of FY 2013, D.C. has issued nearly 335,000 tickets, which is almost the same amount for all of 2011. From those tickets, the city has generated $44.8 million already this year.

"The city says the overall revenue will decline in 2013 because of lowering the ticket amounts. But in reality, I think we're going to see a record amount of speed camera tickets this year, and still have a record amount of revenue. When you add the red-light camera revenue, D.C. is going to make $120 million this year," Townsend says.

"Automated Traffic Enforcement is, and has been from the beginning, about saving lives by reducing risky and aggressive driving through consistent enforcement. MPD's goal is to change people's habits of speeding and running red lights, which this program has done," says MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said in a statement to WTOP.

"Over the past eleven years, since the speeding program was started in August 2001, the District experienced a 73% decrease in traffic fatalities: from 72 in 2001 to a historic low of 19 in 2012, a reduction of over 40% from 2011," Crump says.

On April 1, speeding fines dropped across the board in the District. Going 11-15 mph over the limit went down from $100 to $92. Going 16-20 and 21-25 mph over the limit drop $50 apiece.

However, nearly 80 percent of all speed camera tickets go to drivers between 11-15 mph over the limit, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Thus, Townsend argues the impact on reducing the fines will have little impact.

"When you consider that many speed cameras are in locations where the speed limit are 25 or 30 mph, it's not hard to believe some people may go over the limit because drivers go at what engineers call the 85 percentile speed. So it's not hard to generate tickets when the limits are set artificially low," says Townsend.

Safety advocates point to the fact that these speed limits ensure the safety of the high pedestrian traffic in the District, as well as protect neighborhoods within the city. They argue speed cameras are just another tool to protect people from reckless drivers.

Documents also show most of the tickets come from cameras placed just over the D.C. border. In 2011, the top generating camera was on the 600 block of New York Avenue NE, just as drivers enter the District from US 50 and the BW Parkway. In 2012, the top camera was on DC 295 near Exit 1, just past the Wilson Bridge as drivers cross between Virginia, Maryland and the District.

So how does this compare to Maryland speed cameras?

Prince George's County issued about 439,335 speed camera tickets in FY 2012, and Montgomery County issued about 350,000 tickets.

Revenue numbers in Maryland are much lower from speed cameras because the law mandates fines are $40, less than half the amount of the District.

Virginia does not allow speed cameras.

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