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AAA: D.C. 'addicted to revenue,' targets outside residents

Tuesday - 3/27/2012, 12:47pm  ET

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The disapproval from AAA Mid-Atlantic is in response to Mayor Vincent Gray's proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 that could close a $172 million gap. (WTOP/Jamie Forzato & Paul D. Shinkman)

WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia's expanding traffic-camera program is facing criticism by a group that says the city is "addicted to revenue" and specifically targeting drivers from out of the District.

The disapproval from AAA Mid-Atlantic is in response to Mayor Vincent Gray's proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 that could close a $172 million gap through $102 million in cuts and $70 million in new revenue. Much of that revenue is expected to come from an increase in automated traffic enforcement and expanded hours for alcohol sales.

John B. Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, tells The Washington Times that the motorist club is opposed to measures designed to fill city coffers.

"We're in a very slippery slope now," he tells the Times. "I think this ruse has been exposed."

A spokesman for Gray says the mayor must be an advocate for residents, drivers and non-drivers alike.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles Adjudication Services threw out 32 percent of the automated enforcement traffic tickets in FY 2012 to date, according to a AAA release. They have heard 9,650 cases so far this fiscal year. To date, that's on par with last year's percentage, and 13 percent higher than the amount of tickets dismissed in 2010.

The percentage of parking tickets overturned so far this year is up 2 percent from last year at 52 percent, according to AAA, and the percentage of dismissed moving violation citations is down from 59 percent last year to 55 percent to date.

"Most ticketed motorists fail to realize the odds of getting a fair hearing on their traffic citation are in their favor in the District," Townsend says in the release. "The latest figures should give them an incentive to always show up in court."

Many drivers who get tickets still take "the path of least resistance and pay up," Townsend says, even if they believe they are innocent.

However, the process for fighting a ticket might soon become a little more difficult. The DMV is considering charging an administrative hearing fee for in-person ticket appeals, according to the agency's FY 2012 Performance Plan, "in order to reduce the increase," in "frivolous adjudication requests, which unnecessarily tie up agency resources and increase adjudication wait times," AAA reports.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)