NEW CARROLLTON, Md. – Many drivers dislike speed cameras, and some even see them as a way for governments to line their pockets.
However, a recent evaluation shows they have slowed down drivers on seven Maryland state roads.
For example, in the 7100 block of Woodyard Road (Route 223) near Clinton James Madison Middle School, the average speed in the northbound lanes went from 44 to 31 mph. The speed limit on the road is 35.
In the year before speed cameras, only 10.6 percent of drivers obeyed the speed limit in the northbound lanes. In the first three months after the speed camera, the number jumped to 82.9 percent.
“This program has been very successful by a reduction in speeding and accidents on these roadways,” says the police department’s evaluation, which was sent on Dec. 12 from Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw to the Maryland State Highway Administration.
WTOP showed the study to AAA Mid-Atlantic, an organization that’s been critical of how speed cameras can generate millions in fine revenue.
“The speed cameras are working in terms of reducing speed in school zones in Prince George’s County, which is most important,” says John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.
Townsend says Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have been doing a good job using the cameras to create safer roads.
“The report shows that you’re seeing reductions in speeding between 70 to 80 percent in some cases,” he says.
Another example of the cameras’ effect can be found in the 13000 block of Laurel Bowie Road (Route 197) near Deerfield Run Elementary School.
In the year before speed cameras, only 18 percent of drivers obeyed the speed limit. In the four months after the speed camera, compliance jumped to 90.9 percent in the northbound lanes.
The speed limit is 40 miles per hour, but goes down to 35 when school is letting out.
The report cites Principal Mary Walls as saying she believes the cameras have curbed reckless driving near the school.
According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, drivers are also slowing down when the cameras aren’t even turned on and operating.
“It’s having a halo effect. People are slowing down late at night and weekends too,” says Townsend.
Under Maryland law, speed cameras operate from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
As far as revenues go, AAA Mid-Atlantic reports the District of Columbia netted $84.9 million in speed camera and red-light camera ticket revenue last year.
In Montgomery County, the number was $15.8 million. In Prince George’s County, it was $7.8 million.