Speed camera tickets, revenue surge in DC

WASHINGTON — Speed enforcement cameras in the District are generating so many tickets that if the current pace continues, the cameras will have generated 1.4 million tickets with fines reaching $148 million by the end of the year, AAA Mid-Atlantic estimated.

Relying on a Freedom of Information Act request, AAA found that speed cameras arrayed on roadways throughout the city kicked out more than 365,000 tickets in the first four months of the fiscal year, ending Feb. 15, 2016. The revenue from those citations is more than $37 million — about the same as the revenue from the entire fiscal year 2014.

“They are just really activating every camera that they have in place,” said John Townsend, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.

“They’re skyrocketing again, both in terms of the number of tickets and the vast amount of revenue they’re collecting.”

The data, which AAA made public in a news release Tuesday, showed that the city’s speed camera revenue fell sharply in 2014. The city’s speed cameras generated just over 282,000 tickets in fiscal year 2014 for annual revenue of nearly $37.5 million, down from more than 419,000 tickets and $75.7 million in fiscal year 2013.

Some city officials blamed wintry weather for the drop, including prolonged icy conditions, which interfered with crews’ abilities to conduct routine maintenance on the automated speed enforcement camera system. Others, including D.C. police, said the drop was simply the result of drivers speeding less.

In fiscal year 2015, ticketing and revenue jumped back up; the speed cameras issued more than 520,000 citations, producing nearly $55.4 million in ticket revenue, according to the news release.

“Over the span of a year, the number of tickets increased almost 85 percent in the District of Columbia, and so did the revenue,” Townsend said.

The D.C. government pointed to a 1997 nationwide survey of drivers that indicates more than 7 in 10 drivers support the use of photo enforcement cameras to cut speeding.

It is important for drivers to always drive the speed limit, Townsend said, warning that D.C. speed cameras can be placed on any city roadway.

Townsend said he believes there is a widely held fear that D.C. speed cameras are all about the revenue and not so much about safety.

“The truth is somewhere in between,” Townsend said. “They’re about safety, and they’re about the revenue totals.”

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