As drivers slow down, cities lose money from speed cameras

Max Smith,

WASHINGTON – Local leaders have always said speed cameras are about safety, not revenue, but with more drivers tapping the brakes in speed camera zones, at least one local government is facing up to having a smaller cash flow.

“We’re looking at a reduction in the current [fiscal] year of about $300,000 compared to last year. From about $1.7 million to about $1.4 million net revenue,” Bowie City Manager David Deutsch says.

That’s linked to a dramatic dropoff in violations at the city’s eight speed cameras. The city took in $35,000 less in October of this year than it did just the month before.

A camera on Belair Drive, for example, snagged 812 citations in August 2010, but only 59 in 2012, Deutsch says.

“A 92 percent reduction. People are slowing down. That’s what we wanted, and it yields a safer community,” he says.

In the same period, the average speed of all cars passing the camera dropped from 29 miles per hour to 26, according to Deutsch.

On that block Friday afternoon, most cars tapped their brakes in the half mile or so before and after the camera.

With less money coming in, the city will have to look elsewhere for cash to pay for police programs and sidewalk improvements funded by the speed camera revenue.

“We’re going to have to adjust as we develop the fiscal ’14 budget, as we get to that phase of our operations in the wintertime,” Deutsch says. “I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to do that, but we’re going to have to fill that gap somehow.”

He adds that although Prince George’s County sometimes puts mobile speed cameras in the city, Bowie doesn’t expect to add any more of its own.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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