Va. House, Senate endorse first speed cameras in Virginia

WASHINGTON — Speed cameras are set to launch in Virginia for the first time — if only in limited form — under legislation approved by both chambers of the state General Assembly.

The final version of the legislation headed for Gov. Ralph Northam‘s desk only allows for handheld speed cameras used by police officers while in highway work zones. The officer’s vehicle must have its blue flashing lights activated and there must be a warning sign of the speed camera use placed within 1,000 feet of the work zone.

Similar to speed cameras in Maryland and D.C., tickets would be sent by mail and would be punishable only by fines of up to $125. Tickets would only be sent to drivers clocked at least 12 miles an hour over the speed limit.

While the Senate had passed a similar bill in the past, the issue has taken on new urgency due to fatal work zone crashes across Virginia.

If Gov. Northam signs the bill into law, the money collected from the fines would go toward the Virginia State police budget.

Speeding is creating separate safety issues outside of work zones, contributing to numerous other deadly crashes.

A recent study of speed camera corridors in Maryland and D.C. found cameras significantly cut the number of drivers going more than 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Past studies identified other measurable safety improvements, including a significant reduction in the number of injuries in the event of a crash.

Any future expansion of speed cameras in Virginia — either to include more permanent cameras or cameras in areas other than work zones — would require General Assembly action in coming years.

The General Assembly is also moving forward with a complete ban on cellphone use while driving. In the state Senate, there is a bill that would both make it illegal for drivers to use a bike lane to pass a car and make it easier to convict drivers who run over people walking or biking.

The General Assembly session is scheduled to end Feb. 23.

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