Speed camera tickets down in Maryland

WASHINGTON — Speed cameras might be annoying to some people, but they’re slowing people down, according to new figures obtained by WTOP.

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, speed camera tickets have dropped by one-third over the last two years. In fiscal 2013, police issued 360,548 speed camera tickets. In fiscal 2015, the number dropped to 240,730.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, speed camera tickets dropped 20 percent over the same two-year period.  In fiscal 2013, police issued 451,972 speed camera tickets compared with 355,321 issued through the end of March 2015.

As WTOP reported earlier this year, D.C. saw speed camera tickets drop more than 50 percent in 2014. Some blamed the 2013-14 winter and poor maintenance as a cause, although sources at the time downplayed that factor.

So why are speed camera ticket numbers dropping?

Ask speed camera officials and they say the devices are working. In general, they point out that any speed camera program will deliver diminishing returns over time. As people learn where the cameras are located and get tickets, they become more conscious of their speed and slow down in school zones.

Under Maryland law, speed cameras are only allowed in school zones, within a half-mile of the school. In Prince George’s County, speed cameras are also allowed at “institutes of higher education” — or in other words — colleges and universities like College Park. They are also allowed in work zones on state highways.

Speed camera officials also point to a halo effect from the cameras. While the law allows the cameras to operate Monday to Friday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., many motorists don’t know that and slow down at other times as well.

Apps like Waze, TomTom and others are responsible for the drop in speed camera tickets. These apps alert drivers to speed cameras as they approach them. Therefore, people slow down and speed up after passing the camera. Crowdsourcing apps have made it easier for people to report the speed camera locations for others.

The result is a drop in net income. For jurisdictions that depend on the money to balance budgets, it could become a difficult proposition.

In Prince George’s County, overall net income has dropped 40 percent over the last two years. In fiscal 2013, the county netted $7.8 million in profits from speed cameras. In fiscal 2015, the number dropped to $4.6 million.

In Montgomery County, overall net income was $8.3 million in fiscal 2013. Through March 2015, Montgomery County only netted $6.4 million in profits.

Montgomery County has not tallied fiscal 2015 numbers because the period just ended July 31.

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