Survey shows D.C. residents support traffic cameras

WASHINGTON – A new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds that D.C. residents overwhelmingly support both red-light and speed cameras.

Among those surveyed, 87 percent support red-light cameras and 76 percent favor speed cameras.

“Despite D.C.’s camera program being portrayed in the media as very unpopular and unfair, our survey shows people really support them,” says IIHS researcher Anne McCartt.

Among drivers, about 71 percent support speed cameras, according to the survey. Among non-drivers, 90 percent support them.

Still, some D.C. residents gave WTOP a mixed opinion on speed cameras.

“They are just moneymakers and frankly, for that matter, I don’t know if they are accurate,” says Terri Robinson.

Marilyn Crane says she thinks all traffic cameras are “set up to generate revenue for the city.”

“I think you should have the ability to explain the circumstance to any officer and not have a machine issue you a citation,” Crane says. “I don’t like the human element being taken away.”

Between October 2012 and March 2013, D.C. issued 335,000 speed camera tickets, generating nearly $44.8 million for the city. As WTOP previously reported, the city is on pace to match the 700,000 tickets and $78.8 million generated last fiscal year, even though the fines for speeding dropped on April 1.

Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Gwen Crump cited statistics showing traffic fatalities in the District have decreased since the introduction of the city’s speed cameras.

“Over the past 11 years, since the speeding program was started in August 2001, the District experienced a 73 percent decrease in traffic fatalities: from 72 in 2001 to a historic low of 19 in 2012, a reduction of over 40 percent from 2011,” Crump tells WTOP.

Some D.C. residents agree the cameras are about safety.

“They’re a good idea, although I’ve been caught and gotten tickets in the mail. It’s made me slow down, particularly in neighborhoods,” says Carol Mills.

“I find them annoying because I’ve been caught by them, but I am not morally opposed to them. They serve a good purpose to discourage speeding in neighborhoods with children running around,” says Eileen Barrett.

D.C. is one of about 125 jurisdictions nationwide that have speed cameras. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland also have robust speed and red-light camera networks.

Virginia law does not allow for speed cameras, although Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and the city of Fairfax all have red-light cameras.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, D.C. red-light cameras issued 91,550 tickets in fiscal year 2012, generating about $13 million. Most D.C. residents that spoke to WTOP said red-light cameras are much more acceptable than speed cameras.

“It’s a violation that’s much more predictable. People will turn when they’re not supposed to, or just go straight through a red light. You can justify those tickets and it saves others a lot of headaches,” says Robinson.

“It causes people to think when a light is changing and that can only improve safety,” says Marty Cotis.

Right-angle crashes, also known as T-bones, are among the deadliest types of collisions and can be caused by a driver running a red light.

But critics of red-light cameras point out that they also ticket drivers for minor violations, such as not coming to a complete stop while making a legal right turn on red.

Both drivers and non-drivers equally supported red-light cameras, according to the IIHS breakdown.

“Less than 10 percent of those we surveyed admitted to running a red light in the last month,” says McCartt. “When we asked whether you drove 10 miles over the speed limit in the last month, more than 20 percent admitted they had.”

The study also asked drivers about stop sign and crosswalk cameras.

D.C. residents were largely split on the issue, with 50 percent supporting the stop sign cameras and 47 percent supporting crosswalk cameras.

D.C. police are hoping to unveil both types of cameras within the next year.

Follow @WTOPTraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

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