DC-area drivers rack up camera tickets, some on stolen tags

WASHINGTON — For most drivers, getting one expensive red-light or speed-camera ticket is troubling enough, but some drivers are pulling in dozens of citations and not paying a penny toward them.

“It’s astonishing, the number of drivers who are driving about with 10 or more automated tickets,” said John Townsend, with AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Last year, the District had 300 drivers with 10 or more tickets; in Montgomery County, that number was 908, and in Prince George’s County, 10 motorists were caught at least 10 times by speed or red light cameras, according to numbers obtained by Townsend.

The hundreds of repeat offenders in D.C. owe the city about $250,000. For drivers caught by red-light cams, it’s $150, and speeding by a camera can cost anywhere from $50 to $300, according to AAA.

While Prince George’s County had fewer drivers with 10 or more tickets, it’s home to the driver with the most tickets. Townsend said last year, one vehicle was captured on camera breaking the rules of the road 37 times, and still owes the county $2,775 for the citations.

Townsend said a good number of the repeat offenders are not paying their citations, which, he says, in most cases will only come to haunt you when you look to renew your registration.

“Maybe there are drivers who are knuckleheads, so maybe there are drivers who are real scofflaws, but we suspect that the real culprit in this will be someone who is driving about in a stolen vehicle or driving on a stolen or counterfeit tag,” Townsend said.

Townsend said the use of stolen license plates or counterfeit tags is on the rise. He said he found out firsthand after he was involved in an accident with someone who had stolen tags on their vehicle. He said once the driver heard the police were called, they left the scene of the accident.

“It leaves the motorist who was struck holding the bag,” Townsend said.

Townsend said in situations like he’s experienced, the other motorists involved are left paying for their medical expenses and the damage to their vehicles comes out of their insurance carrier, even when they are not at fault.

Townsend said a person whose tags have been stolen may also be in for a big surprise in the mail, when citations come in after the thief runs red lights and speeds in front of cameras all while using your tags.

Townsend said drivers should get into the habit of checking their tags daily, so they can quickly file a police reports if they’re stolen. If you go days without noticing, you could be left with the hard task of proving they were taken, especially if the tags are used on the same model car.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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