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What is the right level for speed camera fines?

A task force will study whether to lower the fines for DC's traffic cameras. What is the right level of fine, and how can DC policymakers use science to determine the right level that maximizes safety?


Photo by takomabibelot on Flickr.

Councilmember Mary Cheh (ward 3), co-chair of the task force, has asked me to serve on the task force. Other members will come from the pedestrian and bicycle advisory councils, AARP, AAA, and the Center for Court Excellence. The group will meet at least two times in late August and September. I'm told the meetings will be open to the public and there will be opportunities for public comment during the first meeting.

Any discussion of speed camera fines needs to flow from a simple principle: the purpose of the cameras is road safety, not revenue. Speeding, running red lights, and blocking the box are dangerous. In many neighborhoods, traffic is the biggest public safety threat and DC must take it seriously.

In recent years, DC has raised fines during its budget process, to plug gaps without raising any taxes, and expanded speed cameras in the same way. That might be the only time it's politically palatable to some, but when fines are too high, it erodes public support for enforcement.

Therefore, we need to base any recommendation on scientific evidence about what level makes the streets safest. There is a tradeoff between the certainty of getting caught committing a crime, and the necessary level of punishment to deter lawbreaking. When a camera replaces occasional human enforcement by police, the certainty of getting caught goes up. Therefore, the fine can go down.

Moreover, research has shown that low severity, high certainty enforcementexactly what traffic cameras achieveis more effective. In other words, people are more likely to follow a law if they know they will get punished, even a small amount, most of the time they do.

What is the right fine for a fixed camera?

The first question is, how much does a fine need to be in order to get drivers to follow the law? Today, the fines in DC range from $75, for speeding up to 10 mph over the limit, to $250 for 26-30 mph over the limit.

Maryland has a $40 fine for 12+ mph over the limit, which does indeed seem to work. That would suggest that $40 may be sufficient, at least for the 11-20 range.

What about lower? What would happen with a $5-10 fine? At that range, some people, especially ones with more money, might conclude that they are in a hurry and just treat it as a toll. It might be interesting to try something like this in the 1-10 mph over the limit range, which some jurisdictions (like Maryland) exclude entirely.

Exempting slight speeding is not really good policy, as it just means every driver treats a 30 mph sign as meaning 40 mph limit, and 10 extra mph of speed makes a pedestrian about 40% more likely to die in a crash. On the other hand, many drivers have become conditioned to believe that such speeding is fine. What about charging a very small amount for such an infraction, to acclimate people to the idea that it's both illegal and dangerous, but gently?

Is the right fine the same for a mobile camera?

MPD also has a number of mobile cameras, and is buying some more. Mobile cameras move around to spots where there is danger and/or resident complaints but which don't have fixed cameras. They publish a list of locations that could have mobile cameras, but don't cover all of them every time.

Should the fine be the same? On the one hand, each camera catches about as many people as a fixed one. On the other hand, though, the certainty factor has now dropped for mobile cameras. Instead of a driver being sure they will get caught if they speed in one area, now they are only somewhat likely. Does this cut down on compliance? If so, does the fine need to be a little higher?

Should the fine automatically change as more cameras come in?

DC could lower fines somewhat today, and then lower them more once there are more cameras. It would make adding cameras less of a revenue play. DC can add cameras, but that automatically cuts the fines, meaning that the budget stays closer to constant.

If a deal in the Council lowers fines for all time, groups like AAA that complain about cameras might crow about getting the fines lowered and then still fight any more cameras. If some of the reduction ties into more cameras, then this can function as a sort of pact between safety advocates and camera opponents: the fines come down, but in exchange, more cameras go in.

Whatever the level, it's important to monitor compliance and adjust the rates if they're not working. If a fine is too low and people aren't obeying the law, it needs to go up. The council could simply revisit the issue every so often, or could even set up a rule that every so often, perhaps twice a year, the fines change based on criteria, like going up if people are speeding too much or down if they are speeding very little.

What do you think the right fine should be, and how can we make it most scientific?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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I think Maryland has a pretty decent value at $40, which is just high enough to put a dent in most wallets and imprint a reminder in the mind, but low enough that the courts aren't as burdened with people contesting their tickets as they might be with a higher cost.

On the other hand, I do know several people who see $40 as a fee which subsequently permits them to go as fast as desired...

I'd be curious about a scalable value in line with what many European countries do, where instead of a flat value equal to each person they instead issue fines as a percentage of reported income. More administrative legwork, but more equitable & there's precedent to show the bureaucracy can function.

Three other elements I'd like:

- Maryland's law (21-809) requires speed limits to be appropriately set for residential speed cameras (school zone cameras don't have this requirement). While to my knowledge no one has ever checked if a speed limit is appropriate, I do like having this on the books should an issue ever arise.

- Greater use of average speed cameras instead of spot speed cameras, reducing the effects of people jamming on their brakes only to accelerate immediately after.

- Leeping fines issued by a camera dedicated specifically toward designing-away the issue that prompts that camera in the first place, with a public-good goal of earning zero revenue off each camera. Speeding problem? Redesign the road to a lower speed. Red-light running? Fund signal timing & coordination evaluations or perhaps conversions to other forms of intersection control. This may help people see a more tangible benefit from cameras as well as help move toward the stated public goals.

by Bossi on Aug 2, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

Er, in my last paragraph: "Leeping fines" should be "Keeping fines"

by Bossi on Aug 2, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

I do agree that fines should be lowered. I think the lowering of these fines should absolutely be contingent on installation of more cameras. $125 does seem a bit high, however, $40 may be too low. Perhaps something like $60 would work well in the district. I think anything 1-5 over is pretty ridiculous to ticket for, just too much uncertainty.

I also agree that revenue from these cameras should not simply go to the general fund. It should all, 100%, stay with DDot. Whether this goes to Streetcars, streetscape projects, etc etc.

In addition, I do think if DC could eliminate/move the 5-10% of the most predatory cameras (295 etc) that you would eliminate a lot of the complaints regarding the system, and would make the system more focused on safety, as opposed to some of these cameras, which do appear to be solely a money grab.

by Kyle-w on Aug 2, 2012 10:56 am • linkreport

That's a lot of writing just to say, "Maryland does it right and DC does it wrong."

The other thing you've missed, of course, is DC's consistent under-rating of speed limits. Fining people for going 1-10 mph over the limit would just annoy people and probably lead to a dismantling of speed cameras altogether.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

JustMe: That's because I don't think Maryland does it right; exempting anyone speeding up to 11 mph significantly impedes safety.

We also don't know for sure if their $40 fine is too low or too high; it seems to generally work, but that's just anecdotal, and Bossi seems to think that some people just ignore it and pay.

Yes, drivers would rather be able to speed up to 11 mph, but on residential streets, going 40 in a 30 or 35 in a 25 really is a serious safety problem.

I agree that the limits may be inappropriate on some freeways and such roads, though MPD has argued that there are too many car crashes there and higher-speed crashes are certainly much more dangerous.

by David Alpert on Aug 2, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

My one major suggestion for the DC speed cameras is that there be assurance that I am made fully aware of the speed limit. I generally avoid driving around here, but when I do drive in DC I'm paranoid about going too fast to the point that I hate it even more. There tend not to be very many speed limit signs, which is particularly a problem when the default speed limit (25 mph) is so low--and often the speed limit is far lower than the general flow of traffic.

by Gray on Aug 2, 2012 11:09 am • linkreport

the purpose of the cameras is road safety, not revenue.

That is where things go wrong. Why not use camera's for revenue? The city needs it. The city can do three things to get revenue: tax, fee and fine. Since nobody likes taxes and fees, fines are the best way to generate revenue. Especially because you can use them to enforce laws. People have a choice: follow the law and you will not get fined. Let the suckers pay, instead of taxing my income more.

Quite frankly, governments should optimize their revenue from fines.

That said, the proper fine for speeding and red light cameras should be such that speeding and red light violations go down significantly. People need to feel the fine, otherwise they will not alter their behavior.

When increasing fines, the city also needs to show the results of the cameras. Less accidents, less crashes, less people killed and hurt, less speeding.

Finally, here's a link to a table of 2012 speeding fines in the Netherlands. The 4 columns are:
Speed over the limit (km/h) - Fine on a highway - Fine on rural roads - Fine on city roads (all in €). The second column is equal, but in work zones.
http://www.flitsers.nl/verkeersboetes

Some examples on city roads:
4km/h over: €26
10km/h over: €65
10mph over: €131 ($160)
30km/h over: €303
When speeding more than 30 km/h on city roads, the fine will be set by a prosecutor, which generally is not fun. They can impose very high fines, take your license, and force you to take remedial driving courses.

Finally, when caught speeding more than 50km/h, police has to take your driver's license and vehicle on the spot. They will bring you to the nearest safe spot, and leave you there. You will have to ask a judge very politely to get your license and car back.

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 11:09 am • linkreport

For most of my driving, I attempt to following the speed limit, especially in urban areas where there are pedestrian and non-automobile users on the road. However, even when attempting to follow the speed limit, my speed will occasionally drift above the limit by a few miles per hour. IMO, it would be dangerous to enforce 1 mph over the limit, because that would force drivers to spend too much time looking at their speedometer. When you should be watching the road, being distracted watching your speedometer makes you a less safe driver.

In addition, I do think you need to take social conventions into account. In order to avoid looking a my speedometer so much, I could reduce my average speed, so example, I could slow down to 5 mph less than the speed limit to avoid having my speed drift above the speed limit. But that would draw the ire of other drivers and again, I think, make the roads less safe.

For the above reasons, I think a strict enforcement of the speed limit would make the roads less safe. In order to achieve optimum safety, I think enforcement should start at around 5 to 10 mph over the limit (it might depend on the road). I understand you believe its important to look at scientific evidence of what level of fines are sufficient to reduce speeds. Since safety is the ultimate goal, maybe you could also find scientific studies that focuses on safety and takes into account issues such as drivers being distracted by their speedometers.

by Alan on Aug 2, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

@Gray: I generally avoid driving around here, but when I do drive in DC I'm paranoid about going too fast to the point that I hate it even more.

Relax and just go with the flow. When everybody hits the brakes for no apparent reason, you can be sure you are approaching a speed camera.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

You also might want to consider a fine schedule that depends on the number of infractions. For example, the first 3 infractions at 5-10 mph over would only result in a warning letter, not a fine. Conversely, repeated infractions greater than 10 mph above the limit might result in a $100 to $250 surcharge.

by Alan on Aug 2, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

That's because I don't think Maryland does it right; exempting anyone speeding up to 11 mph significantly impedes safety.

It's my understanding that DC spots you 11 mph as well (at least that's what an MPD official claimed on the Kojo Namdi show a few months ago). Either way, if you're going to reduce fines (which I have no problem with) you need to a) increase the number of cameras, and b) lower the speed limits for residential roads.

Currently, my hunch as to why residential roads don't have speed cameras is that the posted speed limit on such roads can not be lower than 25 mph. With the "grace cushion" you get to drive 35 mph without getting a ticket.

We need to lower both the legal minimum speed limit to 20 mph, and set the speed cameras to provide a cushion of, say, 15%. So if you're driving 23 mph on a residential road, you get a ticket. If you're driving 57 in a 50 mph road, you get a ticket. Etc...

by oboe on Aug 2, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

I thought I read something in Europe where you begin to get fined once you are 10% over the speed limit. I have to say I like this idea, especially in areas where there is heavy ped traffic and small increases in motor vehicle speed lead to large increases in ped injuries and fatalities. I'd say the penalties should be based on the percentage over the limit you are. You're not $50 more dangerous going 11 mph over than 10 mph over the limit so I think the cutoffs are somewhat arbitrary

I'd second @Bossi's recommendation that the camera revenue goes into redesigning the road. If you're seeing a lot of speeding it's for one of two reasons, artificially low limit, or a road designed for high speed when it should not be.
I also like his idea of average speed cameras but I think that could be problematic and push traffic onto side streets w/o cameras once drivers learn where the 2nd cameras are they simply turn off the main road before they get the second reading taken. It seems like that would only be a solution for the limited access roads we have.
Finally, I think more needs to be done at the edges of the city on heavy commuter routes. My example is RI Ave. It's 2 lanes in MD and turns to 3 in DC. All it leads to is a free-for-all of lane-changing, weaving, and speeding. Set the example for commuters at the edges and maybe there is less speeding once people get to the core and more heavily pedestrian areas

by thump on Aug 2, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

On the other hand, many drivers have become conditioned to believe that such speeding is fine.

Just want to reiterate that drivers have decided that speeding is fine, so it's not really breaking the law--in fact *obeying* the speed limit is the real crime.

On the other hand, cyclists have decided that treating stop signs as yield signs, and red lights as stop signs, but that's just a consensus among cyclists, so it's the end of the world as we know it, and an expression of contempt for civilization and everything honest citizens stand for.

by oboe on Aug 2, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

@thump-

Correct that average speed cameras wouldn't be workable everywhere. They are indeed well-suited to limited access roads, though the UK has successfully used them in a few neighborhoods where it's highly likely people will stick to a single continuous corridor even with the cameras present & they've also been used to some longer blocks.

by Bossi on Aug 2, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

Start the fine small and raise it for each additional infraction. That would keep the fine more like a warning or a slap on the wrist for a first-time offender or someone who makes an honest mistake. Meanwhile hitting repeat offenders with increasingly higher fines prevents even the richest folks from treating it as a toll.

by Rob P on Aug 2, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

@ thump:I thought I read something in Europe where you begin to get fined once you are 10% over the speed limit.

Not in Holland. You get 3km/h=2mpg because that is the measuring error of the equipment.

The whole argument about 'leniency' gets waved away with the argument that any fixed leniency would be a de facto increase of the speed limit.

They keep the margin of error on 'trajectory checks' where the average speed of drivers is measured by fixed cameras on ramps of highways. As time and distance are easier to measure than speed, those values are more accurate than speed cameras. However, since *everybody* gets checked, there is a 100% guarantee on a fine when speeding. It is found that speed limit compliance is very good in those areas.

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 11:23 am • linkreport

@Jasper: those fines are too high for the US. Driving costs less here (gas is $3.50/gal as opposed to $9.50/gal in the Netherlands) and public transport is less reliable. Poorer people need to drive, and the distances are greater, exposing drivers to more cameras. For these reasons, fines in the US as high as they are in Europe are politically unsupportable.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

It's my understanding that DC spots you 11 mph as well (at least that's what an MPD official claimed on the Kojo Namdi show a few months ago).

Yep. I don't even think there is any such thing as a traffic violation within 5mph of the speed limit under DC law. And the MPD will give you 11mph before pulling you over.

I used to drive up and down CT avenue every day in Chevy Chase, and I thought the speed cameras, fines, and 11-12mph-over-the-limit threshold worked just fine.

I might also add that DC can't effectively have such strict enforcement of speeds when (a) speed limits are also much lower than the architecture of the roads allows for, and (b) when driving through DC is so unavoidable.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2012 11:26 am • linkreport

I see from Jasper's comment that I may have gotten that from the NL. My guess is that 4 km over would be on a 40km/hour road or lower?

by thump on Aug 2, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

I seem to remember something on GGW a couple years ago with evidence that the severity of responses to illegal activity has little effect on the behavior compared to the frequency with which the law is enforced. That would suggest that the actual amount the fine is significantly less relevant than the likelihood of getting caught.

by Lucre on Aug 2, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

....or not

by thump on Aug 2, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

@goldfish
Poorer people need to drive, and the distances are greater, exposing drivers to more cameras. For these reasons, fines in the US as high as they are in Europe are politically unsupportable.

OK, so tie the fines to income like they do in some European countries.

by MLD on Aug 2, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

@MLD: ...tie the fines to income ...

I dunno, but my instincts say no. You don't have penalties tied to income, and I cannot think of any US law that does. The penalty is has to do with the crime, not how much money the person committing it makes.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 11:34 am • linkreport

I almost never drive in DC -- almost all of my experience is walking, on public transit, or in someone's car -- but I think fines starting at a couple of miles over the limit could have negative effects. Starting at 10 miles over the speed limit provides a good balance between keeping traffic moving and encouraging people to stay at reasonable speeds. As a pedestrian I am assertive of my rights, but I've see way to many of my fellow walkers dangerously breaking the law by crossing illegally which is just as complicit I believe in many traffic accidents.

by Pedestrian on Aug 2, 2012 11:35 am • linkreport

I would imagine many accidents "caused" by pedestrians (whether crossing illegally or not involve being rear ended which then its on the person who rear ends since they have the responsibility to maintain safe stopping distance.

And again, the severity of accident factors up as you speed so a 10 mph increase in speed does not equal a similar increase in risk. The marginal increase of 25 to 35 is much more noticeable than 75 to 85.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

@ goldfish: those fines are too high for the US. ... Poorer people need to drive

All people, poor, rich, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, smart, stupid can choose to not break the law and avoid fines.

@ thump:My guess is that 4 km over would be on a 40km/hour road or lower?

All roads. And I repeat that it's just the margin of error that you get, i.e. they can not measure more accurately. No leniency.

@MLD:tie the fines to income like they do in some European countries.

That's in Finland, I believe. I would love to see that for all fines and fees. Tie it to gross, unadjusted income.
http://marcfbellemare.com/wordpress/2012/02/speeding-fines-that-vary-with-income-absolute-vs-relative-risk-aversion-and-public-policy/

@ pedestrian:Starting at 10 miles over the speed limit provides a good balance between keeping traffic moving and encouraging people to stay at reasonable speeds.

The chances of surviving a car crash drop from 'minor scratches' to 'near certain death' between 25 mph and 35 mph.

Why does the vague notion of 'flow of traffic' outweigh personal safety? And why does only the flow of car traffic count?

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

Why do you value this vague notion of 'flow of traffic' over your personal safety?

Because there are certain risks people are willing to take in their lives that they consider acceptable. Pretty much I would reduce my odds of dying in a car accent very steeply if I lived close to work rather than commuting 20 miles each way from DC. However, I choose to accept the risk of dying in a car accident. Similarly, people are perfectly fine with accepting the risk of being killed by a car speeding 35 mph in a 25 mph zone, in part because they acknowledge that the roads there are more appropriate for 35 mph traffic in the first place.

That and the fact that DC requires car travel to move about within the city, so automobile flow of traffic has a certain value to the residents of DC.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

@goldfish
I dunno, but my instincts say no. You don't have penalties tied to income, and I cannot think of any US law that does. The penalty is has to do with the crime, not how much money the person committing it makes.

"We don't do it now" isn't really a reason not to do it. Your issue with the fine seemed to be that the fine required to discourage behavior would be too high for poor people to be hit with. And in fact payment penalties that courts decide on are often based on the guilty person's income.

We usually accept that penalties for crimes have a couple purposes: restitution for the crime and discouraging the behavior. For #1 that might be a fixed cost but for #2 certainly it varies quite a bit - $200 means more to someone pulling down $500 a week than it is to someone making millions.

by MLD on Aug 2, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

@Jasper: All people, poor, rich, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, smart, stupid can choose to not break the law and avoid fines.

Hey, you missed the part where wrote that such high fines are politically unsupportable. As in: I never met a person that never broke a law; and traffic laws in particular are made to be broken. If such a person exists, I am pretty sure he/she is insufferable.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

David--

I'd be really interested in a study/discussion about whether a car tax (similar to the London tax for cars driving in the city center) serves to reduce traffic violations and increase pedestrian safety. This issue with the ticket fines is about making people drive more "safely"; isn't one way of accomplishing "safe" driving by encouraging people to drive less? Not sure I have a strong opinion on this front, but it would make for an interesting article.

by MJ on Aug 2, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

@ goldfish:I never met a person that never broke a law; and traffic laws in particular are made to be broken. If such a person exists, I am pretty sure he/she is insufferable.

So, what is the consequence then? Because everybody breaks the law, laws should not be enforced?

Note that it's enforcing the law. Not 'kindly asking if people could be so nice to follow the rules that have been democratically approved to protect their life and safety if it's not to inconvenient, please'.

It makes no sense to have laws and not enforce them.

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

Everyone breaks a law that can have serious consequences if broken on busy city streets. Therefore there should be no punishment for breaking said law.

We all speed yes. We still acknowledge this when we get caught and pay the fine. All that is changing is that you are now more likely to get caught.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2012 12:01 pm • linkreport

This whole conversation drives me nuts because it just treats speed (and speed limits) in a vacuum without context. Using Del Ray as an example (and much of DC isn't much different), the posted speed limit on Mount Vernon Ave. is 25. In afternoons, there are a lot of pedestrians and you really shouldn't be going more than 20. However, in the middle of the night going 35 is perfectly safe. If there was a traffic camera it would drive me nuts because it would be so disconnected from traffic safety.

by movement on Aug 2, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure why any of the fines should go down but I like the idea of graduated system, particularly if it enables some lower fines for minor speeding which ought to open the door to strictly enforcing the 25 MPH speed limit on residential streets.

So if you get caught going 30 MPH in a 25 zone (and I agree there should be some leeway on when the ticketing starts but the alleged 11MPH is too much) you get a $50 ticket but if you get caught going 20 MPH over you should really feel it in your wallet and I'm not sure even $125 is enough of a fine for that.

And on a related note some of the fines for moving violations are way too low - I believe the fine for making an illegal turn in DC is just $25. Perhaps there would be exceptions but any moving violation that requires an MPD citation should start at $100. The higher dollar amounts would provide an incentive for MPD to get off its ass and create a an effective traffic enforcement division (instead of relying on cameras which miss a lot) and some disincentives on some of these violations that the cameras are not going to get so perhaps this committee can look at all fines.

And I'd be curious about enforcement too. The enforcement of the cellphone and yield to pedestrian laws is lackluster and uneven at best so one of these days the council really needs to get some answers as to why MPD does such a poor job enforcing these laws.

by TomQ on Aug 2, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

@movement:

However, in the middle of the night going 35 is perfectly safe.

Even with reduced nighttime visibility affecting your ability to see the few pedestrians that there are?

by Gray on Aug 2, 2012 12:08 pm • linkreport

movement,

buts thats no different than if you were pulled over by a cop. The very same happened to me. I was driving on a rural road that was 55 and I was clocked at going 67. There were no other cars on the road but it is what it is. So yes the speed limit may seem arbitrary at some points during the day but if it isn't for the rest then thats the rule of the road.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2012 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: of course laws should be enforced; but the penalty needs to be proportional to the crime (@MLD: that is the argument against linking penalties to income, btw). The point of this thread is that the penalty is too high.

Unlike far more serious laws (e.g., murder), everybody speeds occasionally. Even in the Netherlands! This means that everybody is exposed to these fines. Politically, when it is proposed to increase the speeding fines, people will consider the likelihood of getting caught, and how well they can afford paying the fine -- that is the unfeasable part here.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 12:12 pm • linkreport

My $.02 :"Slight speeding" is tolerated because the reality is that speed limits are set too low. Plain and simple -- we get a 10 m.p.h freebie, whether it be from cops or from cameras because the speed limits are set below the rate of traffic, and are not tied to safety.

Yes, a car traveling faster is more likely to severely injure or kill someone than a car traveling more slowly, but that is not a reason to set the limits lower, or to penalize someone driving at 32 mph instead of 30 mph. If the concern was what would happen to a pedestrian who is actually hit by a car, then the limits should be 20 mph or 15. The limits should be set so as to minimize the risk of a collision, not the damage caused in the collision. Again, if the potential damage was the concern, then highway speed limits should be cut to 30 mph, too. There's nothing sacred about pedestrians -- we should be more concerned with other drivers, who are far more likely to be hit than a pedestrian -- and, yet, we have highways with speed limits of 55, 65 or even above -- speeds that result in many fatal collisions every day.

Having said that, I'm with the commenter above who singles out the speed camera on 295. It's hard to see how that ties into safety. It certainly has nothing at all to do with pedestrian safety, which seems to be David's concern. It's really just an annoyance that slow down traffic for a mile. Personally, I think it makes that stretch of highway less safe because of all the braking and the lane jockeying it creates. Also, if I'm hurrying to make kickoff at RFK, it means I'm going to drive faster after I pass that section than I would have. This isn't theoretical -- it is something I end up doing almost every time I go to a United game. That camera -- and th one on Benning, which nabs unsuspecting folks leaving the stadium for 295 have nothing at all to do with traffic or pedestrian safety. They're there solely to raise revenue.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Aug 2, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish:everybody speeds occasionally. ... This means that everybody is exposed to these fines.

So what? Are you implying people have no choice? People choose to speed, because there is no penalty. Put a penalty on it and people will adjust. Since the Dutch government has started enforcing the speed limits, the number of traffic death has been reduced spectacularly.

Politically, when it is proposed to increase the speeding fines, people will consider the likelihood of getting caught, and how well they can afford paying the fine -- that is the unfeasable part here.

Yeah. True. If you ask criminals if they'd like to avoid penalties, they're gonna opt out. D'oh!

Meanwhile, the government is in charge of our safety. They need a stick to enforce the law. The people that get hurt in accidents are no statistics. They are real people, with real families.

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: If you ask criminals if they'd like to avoid penalties, they're gonna opt out.

A bit more subtlety is call for here. Describing people that speed (which everybody does) as "criminals" (like murderers) missed the point.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

TomQ, I can confirm that, as of a few years ago (may have changed), the fine for an illegal turn was, indeed, only $25. Why so low? My opinion remains that those fines are intentionally set at a level that compels people to pay, rather than fight, them. Had the fine been more, I would have fought it, and I would have won (there was a tree blocking the sign). When I saw $25 and no points, I paid the ticket the next day. Not worth my time.

by Ms. D on Aug 2, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

For a penalty that is imposed automatically by a machine that makes no judgment about the safe operation of the vehicle, or its speed relative tot he other cars on the road, even $40 can feel pretty hefty. It certainly is memorable, and few Maryland drivers are ever caught twice by the same camera.

DC's fines are obscene -- I had a $125 fine for 12 mph over the limit, which, coincidentally is the absolute minimum overage required to issue a ticket. I thought the reading was bogus, so I challenged the ticket, but I might not have even gone to my hearing to protest if the fine had been the $40 it would have been in Maryland.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Aug 2, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

Jasper, one of the reasons there's a push for decriminalization of marijuana is because so many people have used marijuana, the consequences of using it are not that large, and it seems unfair to punish people for it.

Propose fining people $100 for going 40mph on Rock Creek Parkway and see how much support for that there is.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2012 12:31 pm • linkreport

"Describing people that speed (which everybody does)"

This is part and parcel of the problem with this conversation. Assuming that everyone speeds and that's fine. But it's not fine AT ALL. For the record, the only time I speed is when I either do it accidentally (which is different from deliberately speeding and expecting to not be penalized for it) or when I feel that another driver may take aggressive action against me if I don't speed up to above the speed limit (which actually happens a lot). And I cap the "I'd rather not have this person run me off the road" allowance at 5 MPH. They want to go faster than that? Find a different road that I'm not on. You know why? Because I've had too many close calls with deer, dogs, children, pedestrians, patches of ice, potholes and all manner of other obstructions in my life. Even at the speed limit those things are sometimes hard to avoid or correct for, above it they become impossible.

Now, it's different to say that driving a car is sometimes difficult, and therefore, everyone MAKES MISTAKES. Those mistakes might include drifting a few miles an hour above the speed limit while going down a hill or traveling a particularly open road. But I still feel that we should limit the "grace" given to those violations (if you are recorded committing a small infraction, and haven't had a violation in 3 or 6 months or whatever, you just get a warning) because the 5-10 MPH generally given by police has obviously been taken as a right by drivers and now they're demanding more. Or we could lower all the speed limits 5-10 MPH and leave you the additional 5-10 MPH you think you're entitled to. I use streets where people feel particularly entitled to speed every day, as a driver, pedestrian, and cyclist. It's unsafe for me, and it's unsafe for others, including the driver of that vehicle. Should I post a video the next time someone hangs their car up to dry on the guard rail near my house, because they couldn't be bothered to follow the speed limit?

by Ms. D on Aug 2, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

So who is representing traffic safety experts? GHSA? ITE? AASHTO? NHTSA? FHWA's Office of Safety?

by Some Ideas on Aug 2, 2012 12:41 pm • linkreport

@ Ms D:But it's not fine AT ALL.

Thank you very much.

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

Mrs D: I agree that part of the problem is the "grace." People think the real limit is 5-10 mph greater than what is posted, because there is no enforcement, which means that the posted limits are lowered to get the expected speeds down. The difference between the posted limit and the enforced limit leads into a sort of game, to get to the genuine safe speed limit.

The end result is the undermining of respect for law. The answer is to actually enforce the posted limit (no speeding 1 mph above it) and increase these limits to what are the genuine safe speeds (they are too low in some cases).

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

My $.02 :"Slight speeding" is tolerated because the reality is that speed limits are set too low. Plain and simple -- we get a 10 m.p.h freebie, whether it be from cops or from cameras because the speed limits are set below the rate of traffic, and are not tied to safety.

This is the argument that makes me angry. No, speed limits are *not* set too low. There are some roads where the speed limit is set too low (e.g. the Beltway), there are others where the speed limit is not set too low, but where most folks think it is (e.g. the SE/SW Freeway), and there are other areas where the speed limit is set a bit too high, most people obey it, but many don't, and there's not enforcement whatsoever (e.g. residential streets on Capitol Hill).

In the latter case, most people drive either at the speed limit or a bit below, but because the de facto speed limit is 25 + 11 mph, a sizable minority drives recklessly and with impunity.

by oboe on Aug 2, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

What about progressive fines as well like they do with HOV violations. First infraction is X, second infraction at the same location is 1.5x, third infraction at the locations is 2x, etc... Since it's automated you could do this on a location-by-location basis.

May be set it up so that each January 1st one infraction is dropped from the counter; thus, the owner of the car is not hit with heavy fines for multiple infractions spread over years.

by Rob P. III on Aug 2, 2012 1:03 pm • linkreport

They want to go faster than that? Find a different road that I'm not on. You know why? Because I've had too many close calls with deer, dogs, children, pedestrians, patches of ice, potholes and all manner of other obstructions in my life. Even at the speed limit those things are sometimes hard to avoid or correct for, above it they become impossible.

Well put.

The typical driver excuse is that the "natural" speed limit that all the speeders obey is the one that drivers feel safe driving. Quite telling that kids, pedestrians, cyclists (and deer) don't get a vote.

by oboe on Aug 2, 2012 1:05 pm • linkreport

Movement, do you REALLY think it is safer to drive faster at night in reduced visibility? Do you really think you'll see Bambi crossing in time to stop?

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 2, 2012 1:06 pm • linkreport

I agree with Fischy about the sneaky cameras, particularly the ones on 295 and the end of 395 after the 3rd St tunnel. And the speed limit on North Capitol Street between Michigan Avenue and the Soldiers Home never made sense to me. Post reasonable speed limits, and post them prominently, then punish the speeders.

by dca on Aug 2, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

increase these limits to what are the genuine safe speeds (they are too low in some cases).

And in many cases are too high (for example, neighborhood streets in the city... Again, the "genuine safe speed" is all a matter of perspective. My guess is that the guy driving through town in a Lincoln Navigator has a different perspective than the woman on a bicycle with her 2 year old in a bike seat.

by oboe on Aug 2, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

@oboe: I agree that the safe speed on narrow streets in capitol hill is lower than the speed limit, 25 mph. On my street, thank God, I think it is largely respected. OTOH, the speed limit is a coarse instrument that does not account for varying conditions: the safe speed can and does change within a block, too short of a distance to post signs and expect people to respond. So what to do?

On Pennsylvania Ave there is the opposite problem. Speed limit is 30 (which I think is reasonable speed to go) but people drive 40-45. The limit is not enforced.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

"like going up if people are speeding too much or down if they are speeding very little."

What is the reason for bringing fines down if people are speeding very little? That would imply that things are working. Bringing fines down in that case is, as far as I can tell, an economics move - lower the price so more people speed and hope that demand is elastic enough that revenue goes up. But if we don't care about revenue, why bother lowering the price on a road where hardly anyone's speeding?

by Matt on Aug 2, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

how can we make it most scientific?

David, good question. Fits right in with the recent book by Jim Manzi of the Manhattan Institute, Uncontrolled, about how to better employ scientific studies and randomized field trials in the service of public policy. This seems like a very good instance to test different policies and to try to do so as rigorously as possible.

I wonder if fine levels for the minimum penalized violation (10-15 mph over?) could be prominently posted along with the speed limit and the camera enforcement signs, and different fine levels could be tested in different areas and/or at different times. That would potentially allow for a lot more data to be developed than just a single, citywide set of fines.

As to the SE/SW freeway and the connecting tunnels, DC should give some thought to using variable speed limits on that stretch, based on traffic levels or time of day. There is little doubt in my mind that the current limits feel dangerously low at low-traffic hours when a significant portion of the drivers come hurtling by at standard "highway speeds." And it's certainly true that the current limits are correct during midday traffic periods when a steady flow of traffic needs to merge into the SE/SW freeway from the numerous entrances. Variable limits seem to have been tried a lot of places -- do they work, and could they work here?

by Arl Fan on Aug 2, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Oboe - thanks for this:

My guess is that the guy driving through town in a Lincoln Navigator has a different perspective than the woman on a bicycle with her 2 year old in a bike seat.

Our streets have to serve many constituencies, all of them safely, and regardless of even the proportional uses.

And I've spent time pondering the existing speed limits and rarely have found a context where I think they should be lower.

Just because the prevailing speed is higher does not mean it is safe or appropriate even for drivers.

I know people love to cite the limits on 295 but that road is like the wild west with all sorts of poorly designed and too close together exits and merges so even there I'm not sure that the people complaining are right.

About the only road I've found that I think *maybe* could have a higher limit would be Dalecarlia Parkway which has no adjacent sidewalks and very few intersections or turning vehicles. But I don't really care - it is such an insignificant burden to slow down it is hard for me to understand how worked up people get about it.

And the speeding in Rock Creek Park absolutely is a problem and is unsafe. I'm amazed no one using the multi-use path has been killed by a speeding car leaving the roadway - the car leaving the roadway part happens all the time so I think it is inevitable that it happens.

by TomQ on Aug 2, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

And in many cases are too high (for example, neighborhood streets in the city...

We seem to have addressed that issue by installing speedbumps on just about any street that requests them, no questions asked.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2012 1:36 pm • linkreport

Not only is speed important but also the red light tickets.

A couple years ago I got a photo ticket in the mail from DC for being in the intersection when the light changed to red. I had entered the intersection when the light was changing from green to yellow and, as the photo showed, only about a foot of my rear bumper was still not across the box line when the light changed to red. This was a fast yellow light.

Making DC into a speedtrap won't improve our image.

by Tom Coumaris on Aug 2, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

@Gray, Capt. Hilts, etc.
Yes, time of day matters.

If it is the middle of the night and you are a pedestrian and can't avoid walking onto a street in front of a car, you shouldn't be allowed out of the house unsupervised. Use the sidewalk and look both ways when crossing the street or have your mommy hold your hand.

Bikes are not an issue either. If it is the middle of the night and you are driving and you can't avoid a bike that has rear reflectors, you are not safe to drive at any speed.

Deer? YGBKM. I've never met a deer that I could not avoid at 35MPH that I could avoid at 25MPH. If it is crossing the road there is nothing you can do regardless of your speed and if it is just standing there you stop until it perks up. This isn't rocket science, people, and it works whether you are going 20MPH in my neighborhood or 85MPH on I64.

by movement on Aug 2, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

the woman on a bicycle with her 2 year old in a bike seat

WADR, this is not safe behavior under any circumstances. Find another mode of transportation.

by movement on Aug 2, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

the woman on a bicycle with her 2 year old in a bike seat

WADR, this is not safe behavior under any circumstances. Find another mode of transportation.

Odd That I'm still alive as that's how my mom took me around the neighborhood back in the day. Some of my fondest memories happened on the back of her bicycle on the way to get ice cream or just toolin' around.

Would it be safer if more people obeyed the speed limit? Isn't that what this discussion is all about?

by thump on Aug 2, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

So some would be ok with cameras if the speed limits were variable somehow? That seems like you're just moving the goalposts. If the speed limit is needed 18 out 24 hours in a day its rather unnecessary to have a regime that adds further complication. The limits may be arbitrary to some because they have to be at some level in order to make it easier to communicate.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

@JustMe

Thank goodness. My residential street in Petworth is on a 3 block downhill stretch, and before we got a speedhump or two on all three blocks, we had people getting up over 50 on that stretch. It was when someone hit three cars on my side of the street, then four more on the other side of the street after they lost control, killing themself, that we finally got speedhumps.

Perhaps if the city hadn't dragged their feet so long on installing the speedhumps, that kid would still be alive. I don't think there should be questions asked. If the people on the street agree (I believe the number necessary is 80% of all residents signitures) then the speedhump should be installed immediately.

by Kyle-w on Aug 2, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

WADR, this is not safe behavior under any circumstances. Find another mode of transportation.

I think the bottom line is that we've got a different understanding of what roads are for. @movement here clearly think that they're for the sole use of cars, and that the onus is on everyone else to GTFOOMY.

Fortunately, that's increasingly becoming a marginalized position as the broader culture changes. I think that enforcement should be much more restrictive for, if nothing else, to send a message to folks who never learned to share that the old way of doing things doesn't fly anymore.

Anyway, at the end of the day, my prediction is that there will be some municipalities where people will be able to do things like ride bikes with kids on the back. And others where such behavior will seem completely insane to outsiders (even though it's as safe as any other option). Places like DC will be the former. And the laws will continue to grow to reflect that.

It's a cultural divide. One that will continue to grow.

by oboe on Aug 2, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

@ movement: the woman on a bicycle with her 2 year old in a bike seat

this is not safe behavior under any circumstances. Find another mode of transportation.

I'll second thump, and mention that my mom would bring me and my little bro to school on a single bike. Holland was not the bike paradise that it is now in the late 70s.

Some modern examples:

From Holland:

Mom with kids

Mom with kids

From Belgium:
Mom with kids

From Israel:
Mom with kids

Tokyo:

Portland:
Mom with kids

And finally a dad with a kid:
Mom with kids

PS: Note that only the Americans are wearing a helmet.

by Jasper on Aug 2, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

While the I understand the safety issue of fining those people who go between 1-10 miles over the speed limit it is also unfair at the same time.
In Montgomery county it is very to post cameras in areas where the limit drops from 45 to 35 or 35 to 25 and its either not well marked or there is no apparent change in road conditions.. In both cases someone who was driving the legal limit would be penalized.

by Matt R on Aug 2, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

So let me make sure I understand this correctly: millions of our tax dollars have been spent to reconstruct our roads to safely handle higher speeds, but we're still expected to drive 25 mph like we're living in 1954? Get real.

The argument that "photo enforcement is about safety, not revenue" only holds water if the speed limit is the SAME as the safe speed the engineers built the road for. If you want people to drive slower, then the street should be constructed to be unsafe at speeds above 25 mph. I've even read several articles on this blog about doing just that. Building roads that encourage us to drive faster than the speed limit, while at the same time setting the speed limit at a paltry 25 mph, is completely indefensible.

We all know this is about revenue. Enough with the BS. How dumb do you think we are?

by Brian on Aug 2, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

Why should the fine for a speeding violation be lower than the basic fine for a parking ticket? The baseline parking ticket in DC seems to be $50 now. Speeding is a safety issue and much more serious. Also, what is the basic fine for speeding if a motorist is ticketed by MPD? The fine shouldn't be lower than that.

As for those (I'm looking at you, Tommy Wells) who fret that the speeding fine is too high for low income individuals, here's basis advice: don't speed.

by Ralph on Aug 2, 2012 2:50 pm • linkreport

@Brian-Yes, exactly. Since 1954 we've learned a great deal and we're adjusting to that new information. Back then it was thought that the automobile was the end-all be-all cure for human mobility. We know now, especially in dense areas, that's not really the case, and in fact the automobile is one of the least efficient modes of travel over short distances. Part of the beauty of being human is we constantly have the opportunity to learn new things, adapt, and devise new ways of being. We're entering a time where we have the ability to rectify mistakes of the past, and that's a good thing.
If you take a look at the comments, people have suggested just what you're talking about ie. Retrofitting streets so that they function for all users, not just motor vehicles. It's good that you think the money from speed cameras should be used that way. I share your opinion.

by thump on Aug 2, 2012 2:52 pm • linkreport

@Oboe, movement here clearly think that they're for the sole use of cars, and that the onus is on everyone else to GTFOOMY

Doesn't matter that movement clearly never suggested such. The snark is considered appropriate nonetheless. Tone? Who cares about that when you believe you're right.

by HogWash on Aug 2, 2012 2:55 pm • linkreport

@thump, Back then it was thought that the automobile was the end-all be-all cure for human mobility

I don't believe that's an accurate reflection for how people felt about autos.

by HogWash on Aug 2, 2012 2:58 pm • linkreport

If you take a look at the comments, people have suggested just what you're talking about ie. Retrofitting streets so that they function for all users, not just motor vehicles.

But that's not what they're suggesting. They just want speed limits lower because it's "safer." But if speed limits were 15 mph, things would be MUCH safer! But we don't do that because it's stupid. And no one is interested in re-organizing the streets to be more in line with their vision for what the speed of traffic should be.

35mph is going to be the norm on most commercial city streets if traffic permits it. 25 mph is basically the best you can do on small residential streets. Setting up a 25mph speed limit on a 4-lane street and ticketing people for going 30mph isn't going to fly.

DC's intra-city transit network is abysmal, to the point where it's not really feasible to move around the expanse of the city without a car. Until the city is willing to invest billions of dollars to fix that simple fact, claiming that traffic flow for cars shouldn't be a priority is delusional.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

Brian,

Again, cars aren't the only travelers on the streets of DC. The 25mph limit is there for people walking/cycling as well. Moreover, while I agree streets should be designed to be driven safely on, the absence of those features never gives anyone carte blanche to drive as they feel.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

"Any discussion of speed camera fines needs to flow from a simple principle: the purpose of the cameras is road safety, not revenue"

I agree that the most important principle is safety, but I also see nothing wrong with using cameras as a source of revenue. Why should we pay 5-10% sales tax for a pair of socks, but feel entitled to (say) a $20 ticket for breaking the law and endangering others, or even a free pass for only doing 11mph above the limit? If speeding tickets were as ubiquitous as the sales tax, maybe the fine could be lower.

Better yet, use the fines to reduce the sales tax. People complain about the cost of speeding tickets being unfair on the poor. Well, at least the poor can control whether they speed or not, but have less control over buying necessities of life, and the sales taxes use a greater percentage of the income of the poor.

by SJE on Aug 2, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

@JustMe-But that's not what they're suggesting. Yes it is!. The first comment, by Bossi says Leeping (sic) fines issued by a camera dedicated specifically toward designing-away the issue that prompts that camera in the first place, with a public-good goal of earning zero revenue off each camera. Speeding problem? Redesign the road to a lower speed. Red-light running? Fund signal timing & coordination evaluations or perhaps conversions to other forms of intersection control. This may help people see a more tangible benefit from cameras as well as help move toward the stated public goals. He meant "Keeping fines..." and I agreed with him and Kyle-w seemed to say something similar: It should all, 100%, stay with DDot. Whether this goes to Streetcars, streetscape projects, etc etc. I personally think this is where all the monies should go..redesign the road to reflect the context.

I don't believe that's an accurate reflection for how people felt about autos.

I do @Hogwash. I think that's why large swaths of cities were torn out, often against the will of the folks that lived there in order to put in highways dedicated to the movement of autos. Are you saying that there hasn't been a steady enlargement of the space for motor vehicles at the expense of pedestrians? All the literature I've read seems to state otherwise.

by thump on Aug 2, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

If you're thinking about punishing slight infractions of 1-10 mph over the limit, then that would have to be accompanied by a new study to determine proper limits. That discussion has been largely absent from the overall camera debate, and it needs to be in there. I can live with 25mph in residential areas, but on major arteries, and especially highways and quasi highways like Rt 50 Eastbound out of DC (with no pedestrian traffic), the speed limits are antiquated, set decades ago when cars were much less safe and the stopping power of brakes much worse.

by Jeff on Aug 2, 2012 5:42 pm • linkreport

Trying to pay a ticket today on dmv.dc.gov Google tells me it's spreading a virus and not to go there.

Must of ticketed a code writer.

by Tom Coumaris on Aug 2, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport

"The purpose of the cameras is road safety, not revenue."
-----

Considering the already-low speed limits on DC limited-access freeways and other highways were actually lowered further once speed cameras were installed, claiming the goal isn't revenue enhancement insults the intelligence of the average driver.

by ceefer66 on Aug 2, 2012 5:54 pm • linkreport

@JustMe:
DC's intra-city transit network is abysmal, to the point where it's not really feasible to move around the expanse of the city without a car.
Plenty of us here manage to do that. What makes you think it isn't feasible?

by Gray on Aug 2, 2012 6:08 pm • linkreport

@Gray: Plenty of us here manage to do that. What makes you think it isn't feasible?

It depends on where you are coming from, and where you are going. The metro is great if you are commuting from (e.g.) Woodley Park to downtown. My (all within DC) commute, however, is possible on the public network but not practicable: about one hour, whereas driving is only 10 minutes. It is impossible if I factor in the demands of kids and schedule -- or if I respect the value of my time.

No, the public transport in this town leaves some commutes out, and driving is a necessity for some people.

by goldfish on Aug 2, 2012 6:23 pm • linkreport

No, I'm not kidding you about the deer. You don't see a whole lot of deer on residential streets in DC, but I spent a full quarter of my life driving (and over half the time I've had a license) in an area where you'd be likely to encounter deer regularly (more than once a week). The speed limits were not 25 or 35 there. There is a HUGE difference between encountering a deer at 45 and 60 or more. You'll have to trust me on this one, as the speed limit on the route to my home was 45 and I used to just drive however fast I wanted on that largely deserted road until one night I landed my car in a ditch trying to avoid a deer at 60 MPH. Once I wised up and started driving the speed limit, I never again had a problem stopping for the deer. At night, fog lights on (they illuminate the shoulder well), you can see them in enough time to stop at 45, not so much at 60. You know where you are likely to see deer on the road in DC? Rock Creek Parkway. And guess how much people speed there...

by Ms. D on Aug 2, 2012 6:27 pm • linkreport

I do agree that some of the speed cameras are traps and some speed limits are set too low. But there are also many areas where the speed limits are set as such for good reason, and even some areas where they could stand to be a little lower. The areas where the speed limits are right or could be lower are where the 5-10 MPH grace is problematic. I have to cross Brentwood Rd. every single day. The speed limit is 25 because I'm certainly not the only one crossing the street, and there are some dangerous curves and other obstacles. But Brentwood Rd. is regularly a speedway. People drive 40-50 MPH without a care, leading to there being one of the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians not too far from my home (a red light camera is also needed at this intersection). There's also a major issue with speeding on the Brentwood Parkway/6th St. They are redesigning this road (thankfully), but it's also not safe for drivers to speed in this area because of the sharp turn at Penn St., the confusion over the right-only lane, and the previously and soon-to-be pretty heavy traffic and foot traffic in the area. Finally, I've mentioned here and elsewhere the turn around the park in my neighborhood with the guard rail, where drivers regularly land somewhere besides the road because they think it's perfectly fine to cruise through a residential neighborhood at 40 MPH or more. These are the places where enforcement is needed, and the "typical speed" is not indicative of safe limits.

by Ms. D on Aug 2, 2012 7:39 pm • linkreport

haha, listen to all the ironically scofflaw drivers argue that illegal behavior that leads to a higher death rate is ok because, well, they like to do it

by Mike on Aug 3, 2012 8:10 am • linkreport

I urge you to push for an assessment of the net cost of illegal driving in DC. That would include injuries,deaths, enforcement, and engineering, minus fines and insurance payments. The cameras should earn at least that much. Eventually a victims compensation fund could be established to cover provable damages from under insured drivers and possibly valid claims by cyclists precluded solely by contributory negligence, but this latter point need not be addressed now.

by Jim Titus on Aug 3, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

We have "performance parking" with fees rising for high use, maybe we could have a similar scale for excessive speeding, fines go up. But I have no problem with high fines for people traveling 15-20-25+ mph over legal limit. Simply dangerous. The task force also should review law that any roadway speed limit is 25 unless otherwise marked. With better roads, more bike lanes and cameras, maybe that's too low in many cases.

by Tom Sherwood on Aug 3, 2012 9:09 am • linkreport

@Mike
No, it is blind adherence to statistics, completely without context. It isn't as if driving below 25MPH is universally safe and driving 30MPH is universally unsafe. There are times where driving 20MPH is not safe and other times when driving 35MPH is safe. A police officer is able to use judgment. A traffic camera is not.

by movement on Aug 3, 2012 9:22 am • linkreport

Implicit in much of this discussion is the assumption that speed limits are rationally set. But in my experience DDOT cannot offer any explanation for any posted speed limit. They're set by some ancient guesswork, then live on forever, never seriously questioned.

I queried DDOT about that absurd 30 mph limit on Porter Street, only to be told essentially that that's what it's always been, and nobody today knows why. It just is. And the fact that the 85th-percentile speed at that location -- a guide to what drivers consider safe -- is 44 mph is disregarded. No wonder it's an infamous speed trap, and the MPD loves it.

Speed limits ought to be rational. They're not, and on most DC roads, the average speed of free-flowing traffic is higher than the posted limit. Installation of any speed camera ought to be preceded by a real assessment of what the speed limit ought to be.

by Jack on Aug 3, 2012 9:48 am • linkreport

"Speed limits should be rational" = "What can't I drive faster on the road I want to drive faster on?"

And B. if there is ever a situation where driving faster is the safer option and you get a traffic ticket you can still contest it. The only reason I can think for this is if you're somehow being chased or harrassed and then I'll be calling the police anyway. I'm fine with the risk of 1% of drivers being somehow unjustly ticketed compared to the rest who are speeding because they want to.

An argument about a "policeman's judgment" is a red herring when you consider that the vast majority of traffic infractions don't have anything we'd consider a good reason for speeding.

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

I suppose you could also speed to the emergency room but then again you have a record that you could use to contest.

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 9:57 am • linkreport

Tom Sherwood:But I have no problem with high fines for people traveling 15-20-25+ mph over legal limit. Simply dangerous.

10 or less over the speed limit of 25 is also dangerous:
http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm
[That's from the UK DOT, not some wingnut group.]

Vehicle design matters too:
http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/10/3/154.full

Here a nice summery of the effects of crashes on pedestrians:
http://www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe/crashstats.cfm
Some key phrases:
* 4,749 pedestrians were reported to have been killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2003
* Crash involvement rates (crashes per 100,000 people) are the highest for 5- to 9-year-old males, who tend to dart out into the street. This problem may be compounded by the fact that speeds are frequently a problem in areas where children are walking and playing.
* Fatal pedestrian crashes typically peak later in the day, between 5 and 11 p.m.
* Speeding is a major contributing factor in crashes of all types. In 2003, speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes.

by Jasper on Aug 3, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

@Jack
I queried DDOT about that absurd 30 mph limit on Porter Street, only to be told essentially that that's what it's always been, and nobody today knows why. It just is. And the fact that the 85th-percentile speed at that location -- a guide to what drivers consider safe -- is 44 mph is disregarded. No wonder it's an infamous speed trap, and the MPD loves it.

I thought we had been over this previously. The limit on that part of Porter could be 40, but it would make things more unsafe (people would drive even faster, and on both ends the street dumps onto pedestrian areas), AND drivers would only save something like 10 seconds.

Do I think there should necessarily be a speed camera there? No, but the speed limit should stay.

by MLD on Aug 3, 2012 10:10 am • linkreport

OK, so tie the fines to income like they do in some European countries.

That would be infeasible in the US. There's no realistic way for DC to determine a motorist's income if they are not a DC resident. I'd bet that all the countries in Europe that do that either don't have local governments, or the fines are levied by the national government.

by Falls Church on Aug 3, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

@Jack:

Speed limits ought to be rational. They're not, and on most DC roads, the average speed of free-flowing traffic is higher than the posted limit.

Again: in a world where there are no cyclists, pedestrians, or any other users of public space other than drivers, you might have a point. But that's not the world we live in, so your point is not valid.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 11:08 am • linkreport

there's a bit of a "three blind man & elephant" thing going on here: folks who want to let "the market decide" what the speed limit should be point to places like 295 and the "freeway" portion of North Capitol Street. Those who think driver speeds are actually too high (because the posted speed limits are too high, and because of the 10+ mph "cushion" speeders are afforded) point to neighborhood streets in places like Capitol Hill and other areas. These are narrow, residential streets where--in a perfect world--anyone going over 20 mph would be given a fine.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 11:12 am • linkreport

oboe: I don't think so. Just a couple of posts above yours someone is complaining that the "speed drivers think is safe" is much higher than the posted limit on a non-access-controlled street with houses and businesses, and should therefore be raised. (Because, of course, drivers base their evaluation of safe speeds on their affect on others rather than simply thinking of themselves.) The real solution here is to bring down the cost of the traffic cameras and put them everywhere, until the culture changes.

by Mike on Aug 3, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

@Ms. D,

You should ask MPD why there aren't speed cameras in the neighborhood locations you described - instead of locations like 395 and 295.

After all, the cameras are put up for safety reasons, right?

by ceefer66 on Aug 3, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

People are SERIOUSLY advocating indexing speeding fines by income level? And how will we do that, pray tell? Is the District going to pull up my adjusted gross income from 2011? Would they charge me more because I had four months of employment last year, versus the zero I have had this year? Stupefying.

I think a lot of the pro-fine people above probably rarely or never drive, or they would have a better grasp on reality. I'm a pedestrian more often than a motorist, and I'm still confident that government's motivation is about 90 percent revenue and 10 percent safety.

Fines in themselves are "fine," but they need to be governed by rationality. The District's fines are WAY too high--along with parking fines and meter rates--and the motivation behind them is more transparent than the window I'm looking out right now. I've gotten dinged a couple of times by that camera near the 3rd Street Tunnel for something like $100 for going 46. Have you ever driven there? Most times, it's unsafe NOT to drive that fast.

Not saying that anything goes, but there must be margin for error. None of this "$5 for going 1MPH over the speed limit" nonsense.

Yes, there is a safe flow of traffic, and sometimes it requires slightly exceeding the speed limit, such as when somebody stops suddenly, or a truck in front of you changes lanes, revealing the stopped car you couldn't see in front of it. This sometimes requires you to accelerate in order to change lanes safely. Frankly, the eye-in-the-sky is not very good at making judgment calls or taking exigencies into account, so I'm always leery of the "more more more" argument for cameras and fines.

And finally, back on the income issue, there are few means by which the District extracts money from us that are more regressive than traffic and parking fines. As some have pointed out, lower-income people do indeed have a greater need for wheels, owing mostly to the fact that it is very expensive to live in the District, and more so if you live by a Metro stop, which kinds of defeats the purpose of encouraging people to use mass transportation.

by MattR on Aug 3, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

See below for something factual on setting speed limits...

USLIMITS2 Helps Practitioners Set Appropriate Speed Limits

Speeding is a major factor in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions contributes to over 30 percent of all traffic crash fatalities. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Safety is committed to reducing speeding-related fatalities and serious injuries. As part of the efforts to assist States and locals to reduce speeding related crashes, FHWA has recently released USLIMITS2, a web based tool designed to help practitioners set credible and consistent speed limits for specific segments of roads.

USLIMITS2 is applicable to all types of roads ranging from rural local roads and residential streets to urban freeways. The original USLIMITS was developed under a National Cooperative Highway Research Project in 2006. FHWA recently adopted the program with enhancements and made it available with user/customer support on the FHWA server at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/uslimits/.

User-friendly, logical, and objective, USLIMITS2 is of particular benefit to local communities and agencies without ready access to engineers experienced in conducting speed studies for setting appropriate speed limits. For experienced engineers, USLIMITS2 can provide an objective second opinion and increase confidence in speed limit setting decisions.

Users input factors including route type, section length, annual average daily traffic, 50th and 85th percentile speeds, statutory speed limit, and crash history, among others. They receive a recommended speed limit and a list of issues that might need to be further investigated. Users can save their project file and/or create Word and Excel versions of their reports.

Access the USLIMITS2 tool at: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/uslimits/

Read the original study report at: http://wwwcf.fhwa.dot.gov/exit.cfm?link=http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/trbnet/acl/NCHRP%200367_FinalReport.pdf

To access other speed management tools and resources developed by the FHWA Office of Safety, or for more information on FHWA’s speed management program, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt/

by Some Ideas on Aug 3, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert exempting anyone speeding up to 11 mph significantly impedes safety.

True, but the issue is probably about instrumentation accuracy and what Alan said. It's impossible to create a device with no error bar, and when you're only 1mph over you have a pretty good case that you could be the victim of system error.

Why not use camera's for revenue?

Three reasons. It creates perverse incentives, it's regressive and it erodes political support. These are all solvable.

You have to insulate those who decide where cameras go and set speed limits from those who want and will spend the revenue. You can hire an outside group of consultants to set the camera and speed policy with their pay tied to safety and usability metrics - but divorced from revenue.

You can set the ticket price to the value of the car or the income of the driver.

And you can set some of the money aside to fund a tax rebate or for Jim Titus' idea to use it to cover those harmed by under insured drivers.

@goldfish The penalty is has to do with the crime, not how much money the person committing it makes.

That's how we have done it, but that isn't the right way to do it. Obviously the penalty should be the same for everyone. But, due to the law of diminishing returns, a $50 fine for Michael Bloomberg is not the same as a $50 for someone living paycheck to paycheck.

we get a 10 m.p.h freebie, whether it be from cops or from cameras because the speed limits are set below the rate of traffic

No, it's due to instrumentation error and the desire to bring the chance of that error causing the ticket to very close to zero.

Brian "How dumb do you think we are?"

This dumb

Ralph As for those (I'm looking at you, Tommy Wells) who fret that the speeding fine is too high for low income individuals, here's basis advice: don't speed.

Wells has a good point though. When enforcement is rare, the fine needs to be high to work as a deterent, but if enforcement is frequent, shouldn't the fine go down?

Ceefer66 Considering the already-low speed limits on DC limited-access freeways and other highways were actually lowered further once speed cameras were installed

Do you have a citation for this claim?

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

You should ask MPD why there aren't speed cameras in the neighborhood locations you described - instead of locations like 395 and 295.

We've already been over this. The reason we don't see them in the neighborhoods is that they wouldn't issue many fines. Why? Because--when coupled with the 10+ mph "cushion"--the speed limits are ridiculously high in the neighborhoods. The answer to this, of course, is to eliminate the cushion completely on neighborhood streets so that you get a ticket for going >=26.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

David, the answer is to get a couple statisticians together, working with either your task force or the DC government itself. You ask for a "scientific basis" for determining speed limits. Well, we have accident data from DC, MD, and VA -- all of whom have different ways of regulating speed limits. Which, if any, of these locales has experienced a significant change in accident rate over the last 5 - 10 years or so? Is there any correlation between introduction of speed cameras? How does fine size appear to have an affect, if any? Etc, etc...

I'd also like to see specific studies of "model cameras", which have presided over a decrease in accidents. While we're at it, let's find the converse: "cameras of shame", which show no change or an increase in accidents. We need to find out which are the model cameras, so we can replicate them, and kill the purely revenue generating -- or unsafe -- ones.

Clearly, with all the revenue generated by speed cameras in DC, the District government should be able to fund a measly study or two. DC Water has a good partnership with IBM (which has gotten more into data mining in recent years) to statistically analyze when pipes are going to burst, when leaks are happening in someone's house, etc. Why can't we extend that partnership, pool data from various insurance companies, and do this right?

On a personal level, I'm happy that more people are becoming aware of the revenue component at play here. When I first became aware of the new, higher-priced tickets a long time ago, my main concern (posted on the Prince of Petworth blog) was that it disproportionately affects lower income people. Yes, a few rich people will speed, however, we have to balance that risk with the hardship we will no doubt impose on some people living paycheck to paycheck. Nobody is perfect, and if you have to log 100's of hours in a car each year, eventually you'll make some mistakes. If you make $20k per year, and you get 2 tickets yearly for 11 mph over on a highway, that could be 1.5% of your gross income -- more if you can't pay on time, and the fines double to 3%. Now, take what you earn in a year, and see if you'd be happy to take a 1.5% - 3% hit -- for making only two mistakes in an entire year of driving.

I would be in favor of higher fines, only as a bald faced strategy to reclaim untaxable dollars that DC-based companies pay out to MD or VA residents. This would have to coincide with a push for a true commuter tax, which I'm sure the states would find preferable to an additional tax on their citizens. It'd be a negotiating chip -- a very aggressive hand to play.

by tresluxe on Aug 3, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

You ask for a "scientific basis" for determining speed limits. Well, we have accident data from DC, MD, and VA -- all of whom have different ways of regulating speed limits.

Sorry, but this is more of a pseudo-scientific basis for determining speed limits--at least when you get away from the interstate.

There are a heck of a lot more factors to consider here than whether the number of people who die go up or down. It's like asking for a scientific basis for a local noise ordinance, and only considering how many people have died or suffered significant hearing loss from noise pollution. High speeds crowd out other road users besides autos. High speeds generally degrade the quality of life in residential and commercial areas.

A simple body count doesn't cut it.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 1:57 pm • linkreport

"You should ask MPD why there aren't speed cameras in the neighborhood locations you described - instead of locations like 395 and 295.

After all, the cameras are put up for safety reasons, right?"

Maybe we just don't care? And maybe we're fine with the speed limit of a high volume, narrow highway, that has merging traffic from all directions and is also prone to sudden stops and starts considering that both highways have sections that end abruptly at stoplights?

And to whoever is complaing that pro-finers are just people who don't drive, yes, most of my travel in DC is done without a car. However, the sidewalk I walk on is always next to a road full of cars so maybe I have interest in ensuring that the people in those cars are abiding by the law.

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 1:57 pm • linkreport

People are SERIOUSLY advocating indexing speeding fines by income level? And how will we do that, pray tell?

Simple. For District residents, you simply pull the registered owner of the car's tax information. For others, you charge the highest amount and allow them to submit information to lower the fine.

And in anticipation of your next critique: Don't like filling out paperwork? Drive the speed limit.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

@oboe

You can't eliminate the cushion. That's not a realistic solution, politically or practically.

Either:

1) drop the speed limit and keep the cushion in place

2) install speed bumps

3) otherwise re-design the roads to inhibit speeding

by tresluxe on Aug 3, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

And to whoever is complaing that pro-finers are just people who don't drive, yes, most of my travel in DC is done without a car.

I drive almost every day. Somehow I've managed to live in DC through the last decade with only two automated tickets. Both were for red-light running. One was in VA; one in MD.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

A. Im not sure this passes constitutional muster

B. Do you use adjusted gross income? Do you look at deductions? This means fines are tied to the convoluted nature of the federal income tax - or alternatively, use some other basis for estimating income (DC has its own inc tax rules, as do states, but they are determined for many reasons, not just "justice")

C. To suburbanites this will sound like interjurisdictional discrimination, at least as long as DC has lower average incomes. That will aggravate regional cooperation - and if you discount that ("they never do anything for us anyway") it could serve as further grounds for a lawsuit.

I can understand the need for affordable housing. But affordable traffic tickets? Traffic tickets are part of the cost of living and driving (like it or not). If folks have too little income, the right thing to do is to give them more income. As long as the fines are for safety AND quality of life (including walk and bike friendliness) and not revenue, thats fine.

if they MUST be used for revenue, well maybe lower some other tax that impacts the poor.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 3, 2012 2:09 pm • linkreport

"1) drop the speed limit and keep the cushion in place

2) install speed bumps

3) otherwise re-design the roads to inhibit speeding"

speed bumps can be an annoyance to cyclists, and to drivers going under the limit. And are costly. as are other redesigns. A 15 MPH limit with a 10 MPH cushion strikes me as silly, and very unfair to people who do not use the cushion.

it seems like at a 25 MPH limit, going over 5 MPH further should not introduce the same accuracy issues that going 5 mph over at 65 MPH does.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 3, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Some Ideas -- The "expert system" you recommend looks like the sort of antiquated anti-pedestrian traffic engineering that has ruined our cities. The report explicitly rejects (p. 12) "setting optimum speed limits... based on the argument that the speeds selected by drivers do not take into account risks imposed on other drivers and society." Instead, the expert system essentially seems to recommend setting limits at whatever speed cars now drive. Where that creates unsafe conditions, it recommends that you do something other than reducing the speed limit, but doesn't tell you what to do.

This is based on the philosophy that:

On local roads, low operating speeds are desired to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists and to provide access to residences and businesses. On arterial streets where the function of the road is to carry traffic and provide access to businesses, the goal of speed management is to maintain mobility and capacity while increasing safety.

In other words, anything that we choose to classify as an arterial street is designed exclusively to move cars.

by Ben Ross on Aug 3, 2012 2:14 pm • linkreport

@oboe

No one said anything about a body count -- that's some gratuitous strawmanship. The DC area is the second most accident prone locale in the country. There's a lot of data here... And accidents should be our primary concern, not a secondary one. That's the minimum bar for improvement -- unless you think that it's so accident-free here, that smaller increments of improvement should now be the primary measure of quality of life concerns.

by tresluxe on Aug 3, 2012 2:16 pm • linkreport

You can't eliminate the cushion. That's not a realistic solution, politically or practically.

Depends where it is. Obviously we're not going to eliminate the cushion on the SE/SW Freeway. But as far as neighborhood streets go. Take congested streets with a lot of pedestrian traffic and auto traffic like 17th Street or C Street NE across Capitol Hill, or Columbia as it runs through Adams-Morgan. You could drop the speed limit to 15mph and give drivers the existing 11 mph cushion, making the de facto speed limit 25 mph. Or you could drop it to 20 mph and make the cushion 6 mph. Or you could keep it at 25 and put orange trim around the stop signs, add additional signage saying "Zero-Tolerance Pedestrian Zone", and eliminate the cushion altogether...

There may be "practical" issues; maybe you are, but I'm not an expert on the existing enforcement devices. As far as the political issues, that's a function of where these zero tolerance zones would be in effect. Put it on New York Avenue on the way out of the city and you've got political problems. Put it in front of an elementary school and issue tickets only during school hours, and you've got no problem whatsoever. So obviously the median District voter is somewhere between those two points--and probably evolving in the pro-ticket direction as they become less car dependent and spend more time walking places.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

@walker

That's only if you think 26mph is too fast for residential streets. You can't program everyone to drive the same speed -- I think you have to think about it as affecting the *average* speed. So, the question is more like:

What is the speed limit and cushion combination that results in a desired speed on a given road? If you set it to 20, gave a cushion of 10... I think you'd find most people would go around 25.

Bumps annoy; that's why they work. Feature, not bug. (They don't annoy me when I bike, fyi.) If speeding is really a problem, bumps succeed with a much higher rate than anything else -- and we're most concerned with successfully creating a safe environment, right?

by tresluxe on Aug 3, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

it seems like at a 25 MPH limit, going over 5 MPH further should not introduce the same accuracy issues that going 5 mph over at 65 MPH does.

good point. You know, as much of a hot-button issue speed cameras are, you'd think there'd be better reporting on some of these issues. My gut feeling is that speed cameras are where they are because on most neighborhood streets, there's not a whole lot of "speeding" going on, at least if you define it as breaking the "de facto" speed limit of max+10mph.

Of course, that's a loophole in the enforcement of the law based on a ridiculously high "cushion", and on any given day there's a stream of cars doing 35 mph on narrow two-lane streets through residential neighborhoods.

And *that's* where the enforcement should be happening--not out on NY Ave heading westbound past the Arboretum.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 2:28 pm • linkreport

. And accidents should be our primary concern, not a secondary one. That's the minimum bar for improvement -- unless you think that it's so accident-free here, that smaller increments of improvement should now be the primary measure of quality of life concerns.

Obviously preventing accidents should be the number one priority among many, but the obvious end-game here is that pro-speeding folks will take the numbers, show no significant drop in accidents at a given intersection/enforcement point, and argue that we should let drivers drive as fast as they like.

Like in most other areas of traffic engineering, it becomes solely a matter of balancing throughput of cars versus accidents. My point is that there are other considerations--at least if you're talking about a city anyone wants to live in, rather than a parking lot that commuters can efficiently drive to in the morning, and home from at the end of the day.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

Except, you're not gonna put a speed bump on any major commercial street (like the major state avenues), or downtown. And the presence of street calming may not negate the need to ticket someone breaking the law. No matter what the cushion is, people will attack it as arbitrary. That's because it is, you have to set a limit somewhere. A policeman's decision to give you a warning is just as arbitrary.

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 2:33 pm • linkreport

@tresluxe

its not just the average speed, its the entire distribution. And I am not arguing for zero cushion, but for a realistic cushion. IIUC the rationale for a cushion is the enforcement accuracy problem - not because we want two classes of drivers, the sticklers who drive at the limit, and the "realistic" ones who drive over the limit. We should make the cushion as small as is technically possibhle, and then set the limit at the speed we really want to be the limit, minus the cushion.

as for bumps and other traffic calming measures - they are not supposed to be a substitute for enforcement. And they are costly, in their effect on non violators and their construction cost - they should be used selectively.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 3, 2012 2:39 pm • linkreport

@ MattR:People are SERIOUSLY advocating indexing speeding fines by income level?

Very serious.

And how will we do that, pray tell?

Express fines in a percentage of income. Get the income from the IRS, or let people supply last year's tax return. In this day and age of computers, that should not be that hard. In fact, it's being done in several European countries already!

Would they charge me more because I had four months of employment last year, versus the zero I have had this year? Stupefying.

No, fair. The point of fines is to be a financial incentive not to break the law. Fining a percentage of someone's income makes a lot more sense than a fixed amount, especially in a city/country with massive income inequality.

I think a lot of the pro-fine people above probably rarely or never drive,

Drove 600 miles last weekend, and spend 3h a day commuting. Is that enough?

I'm still confident that government's motivation is about 90 percent revenue and 10 percent safety.

And the problem is? How would you rather the government create income for itself, by fining law breakers, by charging fees, or by discouraging working by taxing income? Seems like fining is the best option.

The District's fines are WAY too high

Compared to what? Not to MD fines and Dutch fines as cited above.

--along with parking fines and meter rates--

Giggle. Please name another national capital where parking is free at night and weekends in its core.

I've gotten dinged a couple of times by that camera near the 3rd Street Tunnel for something like $100 for going 46.

Boohoo.

Have you ever driven there? Most times, it's unsafe NOT to drive that fast.

Aaahhh, everybody breaks the law and so can you.

Not saying that anything goes, but there must be margin for error. None of this "$5 for going 1MPH over the speed limit" nonsense.

Could you explain what you understand the term 'speed limit' to mean? As I understand it, it means: "Do not go faster", not "nah, try to be somewhere near this speed, if it's convenient and you're in a good mood today, otherwise just go as fast as you like".

Yes, there is a safe flow of traffic, and sometimes it requires slightly exceeding the speed limit, such as when somebody stops suddenly,

What? Speed when others stop?

or a truck in front of you changes lanes, revealing the stopped car you couldn't see in front of it.

Huh? Or perhaps you could have kept more distance, so that you had more time to anticipate unexpected moves.

Frankly, the eye-in-the-sky is not very good at making judgment calls or taking exigencies into account, so I'm always leery of the "more more more" argument for cameras and fines.

People are still speeding, right? What else do you propose to get people to stop ignoring the law. And please realize that real people get hurt and die due to speeding. I've posted several links detailing that above.

And finally, back on the income issue, there are few means by which the District extracts money from us that are more regressive than traffic and parking fines.

Ah, but that would be over if you tie them to income. You just handed me an argument for tying fines to income. To cite Stephen Colbert: I accept your apology :-P

by Jasper on Aug 3, 2012 2:45 pm • linkreport

@ AWalker: Do you use adjusted gross income?

I'd prefer unadjusted gross income, but in the end I don't care very much.

by Jasper on Aug 3, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

Also if you're concerned about revenue over safety then please provide a solution that penalizes drivers that doesn't involve fines? Maybe we should do points on your licsense and if you break that threshold you have your liscense suspended? Would that or something else be better than a fine?

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 2:50 pm • linkreport

Im not sure this passes constitutional muster

Because of the equal protection clause? I don't think the courts would see it that way. We often allow government to treat people differently based on wealth. College admissions for example.

Do you use adjusted gross income? Do you look at deductions?...or alternatively, use some other basis for estimating income

This is the beauty of using the blue book value of the car. It doesn't change with the law. Plus it may be a more accurate measure of wealth than income is. But, even if you go with income, using the AGI seems reasonable. Why is that so crazy?

To suburbanites this will sound like interjurisdictional discrimination

But it won't be. It won't be based on where you live. Not at all.

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 3:02 pm • linkreport

If you're concerned about revenue over safety then please provide a solution that penalizes drivers that doesn't involve fines?

Saturday detention/trash collection? Caning?

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

David -your committee is loaded against drivers. Start with the chair, Ms. Cheh who likes to regulate evrybody'life down to what they have for breakfast. Then there is you who starts off with the principle that this is not about revenue but safety. Do you still believe in the tooth fairy? Of course it's all about revenue or the Mayor wouldn't have put the proposal for more cameras in his budget proposal. The safety factor hasn't gotten worse over the year. It's the revenue that has become needed.

The presence ofv bicycle and pedestrian reps on the commission is a death knell for fair treatment og drivers. The gentrification extremists want nothing lescthan total control of the roads. Cars be damned. Who do you think pays for the roads? Cars! Through gas taxes and registration fees. The safety problem is equally caused by bikes and pedestrians why not a hefty registration feescfor these groups or large fines for their transgression. I would recommend giving the AAA a couple of more seats on the panel to get some semblance og fairness.
The presence of a bicycle rep and a pedestrian rep is a death knell for the car drivers. Theses gentrification extremists just want to take over the roads

by Bunky on Aug 3, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

Jasper: Happy to offer an apology, after you do the same for your distortions of my comments and strawmannery. ;-)

by MattR on Aug 3, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

@ drumz:Also if you're concerned about revenue over safety then please provide a solution that penalizes drivers that doesn't involve fines?

Traffic safety is the goal. The means is traffic law. You break the law, you get punished. How is that hard to understand? The more significant the breach of the law, the more severe the penalty. Fines are a financial incentive to follow the law. The higher, the more of an incentive. Seeing how much people speed, the financial incentive (including the chance to get caught) is not high enough.

by Jasper on Aug 3, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

@ MattR: your distortions of my comments

Did I not cite you well? Ctrl-c, ctrl-v.

by Jasper on Aug 3, 2012 3:12 pm • linkreport

Who do you think pays for the roads? Cars!

Cars pay? Mine doesn't even have a wallet. But if your point is that drivers pay, user fees only cover about half of the cost of roads (not even counting negative externalities).

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

I may not have been clear. I'm proposing to those who are convinced that traffic cameras are about revenue rather than safety that maybe they should offer up alternative punishments? I think the fine is the fairest and involves the least amount of work on both ends (I'd rather pay a fine than do community service personally)

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

"Because of the equal protection clause? I don't think the courts would see it that way. We often allow government to treat people differently based on wealth. College admissions for example."

do you think SCOTUS would accept differential fines based on if you were captain of sports team? If you were first generation to go to college? based on recommendations? College admissions is clearly subjective (as I beleive SCOTUS has held since Bakke) whereas punishment for crime is perhaps the classic place for equal protection.

"Do you use adjusted gross income? Do you look at deductions?...or alternatively, use some other basis for estimating income" I think there are things in AGI that reflect federal policy rather than ability to pay (like IRA deductions) or are subject to abuse (business expenses) They are may be inevitable in federal tax collection - I dont think I want them introduced to fine paying.

"This is the beauty of using the blue book value of the car. It doesn't change with the law. Plus it may be a more accurate measure of wealth than income is."

That will favor those with several cheap cars over folks with one expensive car.

"But it won't be. It won't be based on where you live. Not at all."

The net effect will be to increase the average fines of suburbanites vs the average fines of DC residents (until the great Oboe morning comes). That will certainly be pointed out.

I don't see the problem with fixed fines. you set it to make it hurt for a typical upper middle income person. Does that make it costlier relative to income for the working class - well, so is gas, so are tolls, so is legally mandated insurance, so are parking fees, etc. Im all for affordable housing - but the proper way to address poverty is via incomes, not adjustable prices for everything.

Does that mean a few 1% will laugh at their fines? I suppose. How much of the speeding is really do them anyway.

BTW, this does not address how to deal with commercial vehicles, which also speed.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 3, 2012 3:33 pm • linkreport

The presence of a bicycle rep and a pedestrian rep is a death knell for the car drivers. Theses gentrification extremists just want to take over the roads.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Let's do a thought experiment: imagine a world in which cyclists and pedestrians were banned from the public spaces. In this hypothetical world, if you wanted to go from your house to the restaurant a block away, you'd have to get in your car and drive there. There are no sidewalks. Walking is illegal.

Looking at the built and regulatory environment, that world would pretty much look exactly like the world we're operating in. Those little stripes on the ground we called "crosswalks" would be gone. The signal with the red hand, and the white man walking would disappear. But that would pretty much be it.

Obviously, in the world we live in, there are pedestrians and cyclists, but what sort of special rights do they have? There's the pedestrian walk signal, which basically does nothing but mirror the traffic signal for cars. Well, except those special pedestrian signals which only operate if you press the button. That's okay, you can wait another light cycle. What else is there? The universally ignored crosswalk? Help me out here.

I suppose the little white stripe that constitutes a bike lane is a pretty egregious infringement on driver's freedoms. Those things take up nearly .0000000001% of the total lane space dedicated to cars in the city. Is that the sound of guns off in the distance I hear?

It's pretty telling that any changes to the status quo that would nudge us us away from what is essentially a world 100% tailored to the interests of automobile traffic is A WAR ON DRIVERS!!!

It would be hilarious if it weren't so unnervingly weird in its perspective.

Anyway, you'll probably want to get used to the coming changes; my guess is that viscious attacks on drivers such as, say, actually soliciting input from the occasional pedestrian is going to be more common in the near future than in the past.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

do you think SCOTUS would accept differential fines based on if you were captain of sports team?

No, but I think they would allow it based on income. After all, the recently upheld individual mandate is a penalty based on income.

That will favor those with several cheap cars over folks with one expensive car.

I suppose so. It will favor those who drive cheap cars over those who drive expensive ones.

The net effect will be to increase the average fines of suburbanites vs the average fines of DC residents (until the great Oboe morning comes). That will certainly be pointed out.

OK, but that's not discrimination. In fact since nearly half of people in DC don't own cars, this is already the case.

don't see the problem with fixed fines.. Does that make it costlier relative to income for the working class...Does that mean a few 1% will laugh at their fines? I suppose.

You've answered your own question. Those are the very problems with fixed fines. It is that the punishment - though equal in value - is not equal in severity.

this does not address how to deal with commercial vehicles, which also speed.

Why not? Don't the driver's have income? Don't the commercial vehicles have values?

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 3:47 pm • linkreport

Jasper:

Well, let's start with the supercilious tone you affected in responding to my highly caveated statement--"I think a lot of the pro-fine people above probably rarely or never drive"--and which continued throughout your comment. Your response did nothing to negate my hypothesis.

You also stated that D.C.'s speeding fines are in line with Maryland's, which was refuted by me and everyone else, unless you think a factor of 2.5 or more is "comparable."

You also condescendingly painted me as some sort of uncomprehending scofflaw. Of course I know what speed limits are. Of course there is validity in speeding fines. Of course they're going to have a measurable effect on vehicular safety, depending on how they are constructed, which was the point of this whole post.

But Mayor Gray and the District make very little pretense about the fiscal motivation behind this, and that's the crux of my objection. I quizzed a DDOT representative about this at a recent public meeting, and her responses weren't very assuring. We were presented with a model resolution to consider that had all of the millions of dollars the new proposals would bring in as a "whereas."

I live in this city. I volunteer at least 20 hours a week contributing to my community's well-being. I pay the highest taxes in the nation at confiscatory rates to support an unbelievably bloated bureaucracy, unnecessary and proliferating programs, and one of the costliest education systems in the country, which also happens to be largely a shambles.

So I don't think I'm out of line if I happen to think "enough is enough." Let's be honest that the debate is about a city government that is looking for more and more ways to wring money out of its citizens, and then we can go from there.

Oh, and: "Drove 600 miles last weekend, and spend 3h a day commuting."

Boo hoo right back at ya'.

by MattR on Aug 3, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

After all, the recently upheld individual mandate is a penalty based on income.

I don't believe this accurately reflects the court's position. They upheld that the mandate is a "constitutional" tax. Anyone w/o insurance who doesn't sign-up for a plan will be taxed...irrespective of income.

by HogWash on Aug 3, 2012 4:00 pm • linkreport

@ MattR: I pay the highest taxes in the nation at confiscatory rates to support an unbelievably bloated bureaucracy, unnecessary and proliferating programs, and one of the costliest education systems in the country, which also happens to be largely a shambles.

Then why not favor the government funding itself through fines that you can avoid by following the law, and let other suckers pay for that bloated bureaucrazy? The alternative is that you keep paying your high income taxes.

by Jasper on Aug 3, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

Matt R
Or as I suggested, coming up with some sort of non-monetary punishment?

I mean, how do you suggest the city enforce the law in the absence of being able to hand out speeding tickets? Would you rather have higher taxes/decreased services in order to pay for dozens or more new police to enforce the law at a scale approaching what is proposed by the cameras?

by drumz on Aug 3, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

"
No, but I think they would allow it based on income. After all, the recently upheld individual mandate is a penalty based on income."

Im pretty sure the mandate is on everyone, but with subsidies to make it easier to purchase the product for the less well off. The fine if you dont is the same, I think.

"I suppose so. It will favor those who drive cheap cars over those who drive expensive ones."

which seems arbitary, especially in a region where there are car lite folks who have a more expensive than their neighbor, who has multiple slightly cheaper vehicles.

"OK, but that's not discrimination. In fact since nearly half of people in DC don't own cars, this is already the case."

And there are already complaints its a backdoor commuter tax, which are silly, since it makes no sense to fine people for speeding who don't drive. This however treats people who commit the same crime differently.

"You've answered your own question. Those are the very problems with fixed fines. It is that the punishment - though equal in value - is not equal in severity."

as we see from the discussion of car values, you can never quite get to that. Of course points are quite as bad for a wealthy driver as a poor one - is the problem the inability to issue points for a camera ticket?

"Why not? Don't the driver's have income? Don't the commercial vehicles have values?"

the income of the driver? Since most truck drivers have modest incomes, but often strong financial incentives to speed (and their employers have strong desire for timely delivery) that will create strong inequity relative to upper middle income passenger car drivers. As for the value of the vehicle, that makes no sense at all, since it reflects the nature of the business, not anyones ability to pay. A 53 foot semi could be in a low margin, competitive business, and a van could be part of a semi-monopoly service business with huge margins.

by AWalkerInTheCtiy on Aug 3, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

I pay the highest taxes in the nation at confiscatory rates...

There's a lot wrong in your post, but I thought I'd break this out as being particularly wrong. It's not even true of MD/DC/VA.

http://bit.ly/T6MdTS

:)

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

Anyone w/o insurance who doesn't sign-up for a plan will be taxed...irrespective of income.

Im pretty sure the mandate is on everyone, but with subsidies to make it easier to purchase the product for the less well off. The fine if you dont is the same, I think.

Incorrect. People who can't afford insurance won't pay the penalty. And those who pay the penalty will pay based on their income. In 2014, for example, the penalty is the higher of $95 or 1.0% of taxable income with a maximum $285 (=3x$95) per household.

especially in a region where there are car lite folks who have a more expensive than their neighbor, who has multiple slightly cheaper vehicles.

Is that true? I think wealthier people tend to have more expensive cars, but I'd love to see some data on this.

is the problem the inability to issue points for a camera ticket?

No. Points would be fine with me. I'm just throwing out another option.

A 53 foot semi could be in a low margin, competitive business, and a van could be part of a semi-monopoly service business with huge margins.

I've got no problem with that. The 53 foot semi driver SHOULD have a higher incentive to be safe.

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

If you really want to claim that speed cameras are soley a safety measure how about removing the revenue incentive altogether be changing the law so that all profits from camera enforcement are automatically returned to the taxpayers. Somehow I doubt many of the politicians who claim revenue generation has nothing to do with the cameras will support this idea though.

by Jacob on Aug 3, 2012 4:55 pm • linkreport

If you really want to claim that speed cameras are soley a safety measure....

It would help if you could point to at least one person who is making this claim. Even Cheh admitted on the Kojo Namdi show this afternoon that it's both a safety measure and a revenue generator.

Again, could you maybe point to a single politician (or even a private citizen in these comments) who's arguing that revenue has nothing to do with it?

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

Sigh...Does everyone here realize that the point of Well's committee is to LOWER the fines? So if you think this is all about revenue (and that that is bad), then you should be celebrating this effort - since it will lower revenue.

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

"Incorrect. People who can't afford insurance won't pay the penalty. And those who pay the penalty will pay based on their income. In 2014, for example, the penalty is the higher of $95 or 1.0% of taxable income with a maximum $285 (=3x$95) per household."

alright, then maybe SCOTUS won't ban it.

"especially in a region where there are car lite folks who have a more expensive than their neighbor, who has multiple slightly cheaper vehicles."

"Is that true? I think wealthier people tend to have more expensive cars, but I'd love to see some data on this."

On average. Remember the statistician who drowned in a river with an average depth of two feet? There are certainly car lite folks in DC, in N Arlington, etc with ONE high end SUV. I know a family in Fairfax, OTOH with six, count em six, cars, ranging in age and quality (they dont like to trade in cars for some reason). That may be extreme, but you get the idea. Value of one car is at best a proxy for value of the cars a family owns, and that is of course only a proxy for total wealth.

"No. Points would be fine with me. I'm just throwing out another option."

I think points achieve the severity goal, and would be much less controversial.

"I've got no problem with that. The 53 foot semi driver SHOULD have a higher incentive to be safe."

Okay, a brand new 53 foot specialized semi, vs an old 53 ft dry van semi. A spiffed out van in a competitive business, vs an old beater van in a high margin business. The VALUE of the vehicle is not relevant to ability to pay. Its arbitrary - you could as well fine people bases on how many windows their vehicle has.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 3, 2012 5:08 pm • linkreport

Okay, a brand new 53 foot specialized semi, vs an old 53 ft dry van semi. A spiffed out van in a competitive business, vs an old beater van in a high margin business. The VALUE of the vehicle is not relevant to ability to pay. Its arbitrary - you could as well fine people bases on how many windows their vehicle has.

Good points. While we're in the process of drawing up legislation, I say you hit commercial vehicles with the corporate rate, which is the same as the maximum penalty. Charge it to the company. I see enough commercial vehicles driving like a-holes on Capitol Hill; it would be nice if their employers (or owner operators, obviously) were given some incentive to behave professionally.

by oboe on Aug 3, 2012 5:14 pm • linkreport

People who can't afford insurance won't pay the penalty. And those who pay the penalty will pay based on their income.

Point taken..well sorta. I didn't read your comment correctly. The individual mandate itself is not a tax. Instead, it's a mandate requiring everyone to get insurance. The court ruled that the gov't had a right to tax those who do not. It did not rule that the tax should be income-based. The healthcare law did.

So I guess what I should've said was, "outside of those who will get it essentially for free" everyone else above that threshold will be taxed if they can't show that they have insurance. The mandate itself is not an income-based tax.

by HogWash on Aug 3, 2012 5:25 pm • linkreport

" While we're in the process of drawing up legislation, I say you hit commercial vehicles with the corporate rate, which is the same as the maximum penalty. "

if the maximum penalty is as high as it can go in Finland, that could bankrupt small businesses. If this is merely a modest discount to the poor as seems implied by "...Does everyone here realize that the point of Well's committee is to LOWER the fines?" then it may not be a problem. Its all this discussion of Finland and other euro models that may be misleading.

Knowing Wells, and DC politics, sounds to me its more like A. fines are high cause DC wants Complete/Safe Streets, and Needs Revenue and B. There's backlash based on the impact on the poor, and this is an attempt to disarm that. IE much like affordable housing as a sweetener for (needed) gentrification. I got no problem with that. Politics is politics. Its the talk of equal severity, Finland, and substuting fines for a progressive tax system that I find offputting.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 3, 2012 5:26 pm • linkreport

That may be extreme, but you get the idea.

I get the idea, but you've got no facts. What do the facts say about the standard deviation on this. Yes, a rich person driving a cheap car would get away with something, but I can live with that. There are few poor people driving valuable cars.

I think points achieve the severity goal, and would be much less controversial.

Hundreds of people losing their licenses would be pretty controversial. And what does DC do when Virginia decides not to apply any points from DC traffic cameras to drivers - thereby nullifying the penalty?

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 5:28 pm • linkreport

Hogwash,

Well, I shouldn't have said the mandate is a penalty. The two are different. The mandate is enforced by a penalty.

And the penalty is not a tax according to the Supreme Court, the President and Congress. It's a penalty. It is allowed under the Congress' taxing power - but they explicitly say that it is not a tax.

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 5:33 pm • linkreport

I doubt that the fines will be based on the offender any time soon, but since it would probably be easier to make it a function of the vehicle not the driver. By the way, my daughter was driving the car that day.

by Jim Titus on Aug 3, 2012 5:34 pm • linkreport

Its all this discussion of Finland and other euro models that may be misleading.

I guess the only reason it works in Finland is because they don't have commercial vehicles or small businesses.

ines are high cause DC wants Complete/Safe Streets, and Needs Revenue

no fines are high because enforcement was rare, and so you need high fines to make rare enforcement work. But Wells wants to change the fines because we've made enforcement common. It's not about politics. It's about policy.

by David C on Aug 3, 2012 5:37 pm • linkreport

Thank you for paying your fines in advance.

I believe they should be higher because people do live here, same as in the suburbs, and suburbans would not stand for speeding in their cul-de-sacs.

Again, thank you for your payment. Please pay promptly and on time to minimize your fine.

by john on Aug 3, 2012 6:25 pm • linkreport

Nice try, Oboe.

Your link cobbles together a bunch of hypotheticals. On a per capita basis, though, D.C.'s local tax burden ranks fourth amongst the states (sorry, not first--I'm SO hyperbolic):

http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-tax-burdens-all-states-one-year-1977-2009

by MattR on Aug 3, 2012 6:39 pm • linkreport

To bring back the speed hump/bump issue. While I think it can be a good solution to a calm speeding, there are problems when we're talking emergency response times. Fire/EMT especially will have problems if we start putting speed bumps everywhere, even on residential streets.

by thump on Aug 3, 2012 7:57 pm • linkreport

The post just reported that MoCo's speeding cameras are effective (more or less), according to a police spokesperson. Police declined to release data supporting that assertion -- which to me is highly suspect. If the numbers were incontestably great, they'd really want to trot them out. I'm guessing the overall improvement in safety is marginal. Maybe some cameras are very effective, while others are not -- a work in progress so to speak.

In any case, we should let the truth be our guide -- not a political agenda. If you want a camera on a given street regardless of whether it really affects safety, take that issue to the voters. Win by virtue of your arguments. Don't embrace willful ignorance because you're afraid the truth might hurt your pet cause.

Cross your fingers... if MoCo's data were to show their program to be very effective -- at least in parts -- then you have an easy answer as to where fines should be set: $40.

In light of that, I'm not sure why we're even having a discussion about this (as entertaining as it is). The answer is sitting there, like a present just waiting to be unwrapped.

David, you should probably get in contact with Capt. Thomas Didone of Montgomery County PD.

by tresluxe on Aug 4, 2012 3:07 pm • linkreport

@David C

"Ceefer66 Considering the already-low speed limits on DC limited-access freeways and other highways were actually lowered further once speed cameras were installed

Do you have a citation for this claim?

by David C"

-----

The speed limit on 395 was 50 mph in the 3rd St tunnel and 55 on the SW Freeway before speed cameras were installed. Now that the cameras are deployed, it's 45 all over. People who have been driving in DC over the last several years all know that.

As for "citation", I don't have dated pictures of the speed limit signs, so I suppose you'll just have to take my word.

Anything else?

by ceefer66 on Aug 4, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

If you want a camera on a given street regardless of whether it really affects safety, take that issue to the voters. Win by virtue of your arguments.

Wait a sec. Last I checked we lived in a representative democracy. The issue has been taken to the voters. Our elected officials have decided to implement automated enforcement. If you don't like it, take that issue to the voters.

by oboe on Aug 4, 2012 7:52 pm • linkreport

"win on the strength of your argument": hard to do when the suggestion that maybe people should be fined when they break a traffic law is shut down as either ignoring the needs of oppressed, heavy footed motorists, a shameless grab at revenue by the government ("psh, how are we supposed to know the speed limit? Look at a sign?"), or a combo of both.

by Drumz on Aug 5, 2012 8:57 pm • linkreport

@ceefer, um, thanks for the advice. Us folks around here have asked, and oboe really has the answer. It's not so much about revenue, but that if you give a 10+ MPH cushion, most people are going to be under that in the problematic areas, but that doesn't make the behavior safe. As others have noted, and as is true, there's a big difference between 25 and 35 when it comes to being able to react to pedestrians or even the results of a car-on-ped collision. Our local police have said as much, but do, thankfully, conduct some regular patrols that help, somewhat, in mitigating the problem since they can write people a ticket for being just a few over where it's clearly unsafe to do so. If, as others have suggested, the "grace" was lowered on certain roads where a low speed limit is called for, then traffic cameras would not only be a huge benefit for us, but would probably be massive revenue generators for the city. But, of course, the (typically) Marylanders who drive through the neighborhood like a bat out of ... would not be happy with this. I don't care what they think, but it seems that some people in power do think that the convenience of commuters trumps my ability to cross my own darn street safely.

I've also managed to never get a camera ticket in DC, knock on wood (I suppose?) 8 years running. Now and really since I moved here, I drive about 2-3 times a month. The funniest part about the aggressive drivers who undertake dangerous actions to get around me when I'm going "too slow" (otherwise known as something resembling the speed limit) or refuse to make an illegal turn (or refuse to outright run a red light...that has to be my favorite, someone using the shoulder/other lane/bike lane/parking lane to run a red light around me) is that I usually catch back up to them a few blocks later. Oh, except I probably burned less gas by just driving a little more calmly and consistently. Chill, bro...that red light/stop sign will wait for you to get there.

by Ms. D on Aug 6, 2012 12:20 am • linkreport

@jasper:

it is more than the government raising money from fines, it has now become about the government controlling its citizens free movement. When the government starts to control it's citizens ability to move freely with the sole purpose being to generate revenue, we are treading on very shaky ground. There are numerous camera's where safety is no where near being a factor (eg. 395 tunnel). It won't be too long before the fools in city govt. will drop all speed limits down to 10mph to ensure more people break their laws and generate more revenue from fines (in the name of safety), the city will slow down to a crawl. SCARY, very SCARY. If you like the idea of the government dictating a proper safe speed for you and penalizing you for not following their baseless determination on roads where no pedestrians are present well you are a slave to the system.

If this doesn't scare you, well you should move to China.

by Tommy Paine on Aug 6, 2012 1:09 am • linkreport

The problem with speeding and speed limits is that people seem to think "limit" means "minimum" or "recommended" instead of "the prescribed maximum amount."

it is more than the government raising money from fines, it has now become about the government controlling its citizens free movement. When the government starts to control it's citizens ability to move freely with the sole purpose being to generate revenue, we are treading on very shaky ground.

Oh yeah, how does that Niemoller quote go? "First they came for the speeders..."

If this doesn't scare you, well you should move to China.
Give me a break. If you want to live in a world where you can do whatever the f#%& you want without concern for anyone else, I hear Somalia is nice this time of year!

by MLD on Aug 6, 2012 8:15 am • linkreport

I'll remember that speed cameras are a government plot to control my movement as I drive along a taxpayer funded road, in a car that has a unique ID required by law to be affixed to the front and back and a card in my wallet that I had to be tested for and have to renew every few years knowing that if I break traffic laws enough times the government can take away the driving priveleges connected to that card.

I assume that you'd rather just higher a ton more police?

And once again, why is the assumption that the speed limit on 395 is too low? It's a narrow road with multilple exits and merges from both sides and ends abruptly at a stoplight. That seems to me like it at least needs careful review to measure the speed. If you're so concerned then FOIA DDOT or whoever to see their rationale for setting the speed limit.

by drumz on Aug 6, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport

My thoughts on DC speed limits and traffic cameras is that it should make sense. For example, the 40mph speed limit on the "DC portion" of 395 (or 695 depending on how specific you want to be) is outrageous. Literally, what were they smoking when that speed limit was decided upon? At the minimum, the posted speed limit should be raised to 55 MPH. MINIMUM! I couldn't read through all of the comments but I'm sure this specific speed limit has been mentioned and I'm sure there are tons of other such areas in DC that have poor speed limits and these are the places you find traffic cameras. We weren't born yesterday and as a general public, know when policy is really for safety and when its about revenue. Most, probably 80% or more, of the cameras around DC are for pure revenue, and not public safety. I would love to hear how the two camera boxes near the water treatment plant on 295 affect public safety...b/c we see people crossing the highway there all the time right...? And then we wonder why traffic around the city is so bad; these policies sure aren't helping traffic flow.

by StringsAttached on Aug 6, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

@MLD

Something tells me that if someone were in front of you on a single lane road where the speed limit is 40 and they are doing 15 for no reason other than they were having a slow driving day that you would become a bit miffed. Don't kid yourself with that BS of "prescribed maximum".

by StringsAttached on Aug 6, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

I'm gonna put the burden of proof for raising the speed limit on 395 on you Stringsattached mostly because I don't care that its 45 and because if you're so convinced that the speed limit is too low you can certainly ask DDOT (or whoever) what their justification is.

And the speed limit is the prescribed maximum. That's what the law says, yes I will get annoyed if someone is going incredibly slow under that for no apparent reason but guess what? There isn't anything you can really do about it. It's not anything different than being stuck behind a bike or tractor so I don't see what that has to do with the question of how do we enforce traffic law.

by drumz on Aug 6, 2012 10:18 am • linkreport

Pulled this from the 2006 study posted on this (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/14880/successful-speed-cameras-require-fair-speed-limits/) story.

Several studies have demonstrated that drivers who travel either slower or faster than the 85th
percentile speed of the traffic stream have a higher accident involvement rate than those drivers
whose speed is close to the 85th percentile speed. Posting the speed limit at the 85th percentile
speed informs the motorist of the speed which is expected to minimize their risk of an accident.
Thus, the overriding basis (from a safety perspective) for speed zoning should be that the creation
of the zone, and the speed limit posted, reflects the maximum speed considered to be safe and
reasonable (i.e., the 85th percentile speed).

Did you see that..."slower or faster than the 85th percentile". So I guess that means DDOT is creating more problems by setting speeds below the 85th percentile according to this study. Doesn't surprise me.

by StringsAttached on Aug 6, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

That doesn't show if a. whether the speed limit on 395 is in the 85th percentile. b. it's a general guideline but shouldn't be the only guideline for setting speed limits and its still not the actual process for why DDOT set it where they did and c. still doesn't negate the need for enforcement for the rest of DC which mostly has streets that are around 25mph and contains all users.

All of that to say, your frustration at the traffic on 395 has little to do with why those of us who support cameras do so.

by drumz on Aug 6, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

@StringsAttached
Something tells me that if someone were in front of you on a single lane road where the speed limit is 40 and they are doing 15 for no reason other than they were having a slow driving day that you would become a bit miffed. Don't kid yourself with that BS of "prescribed maximum".

Yeah, because there is a wide gulf between 15mph and 40mph. I would not be miffed if you chose to drive 35.

Several studies have demonstrated that drivers who travel either slower or faster than the 85th percentile speed of the traffic stream have a higher accident involvement rate than those drivers whose speed is close to the 85th percentile speed. Posting the speed limit at the 85th percentile speed informs the motorist of the speed which is expected to minimize their risk of an accident. Thus, the overriding basis (from a safety perspective) for speed zoning should be that the creation of the zone, and the speed limit posted, reflects the maximum speed considered to be safe and reasonable (i.e., the 85th percentile speed).

You're making a leap that isn't logically consistent. You assume that the 85th percentile speed is "safe," and somehow lower or faster than that is unsafe because that speed itself is unsafe. The reality is that going slower than the 85th percentile is unsafe only because you are deviating from the norm. Also this study only counts car drivers in the "safety" calculations, not other road users.

The observed 85th percentile speed isn't necessarily the safest speed for any road. If every driver voluntarily drove 20mph that would be very safe.

The real prescription shouldn't be "see how fast the 85th percentile is and then set the limit at that" - that only reflects safety for car drivers. The correct prescription is to first determine the speed that creates a safe environment for ALL road users (cars, bikes, peds, etc), set the limit to that speed, and then ticket people if they exceed that speed by 15% (3-5mph).

by MLD on Aug 6, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by David C on Aug 6, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

IF safety were the goal for ticket cameras in DC, which is most certainly is NOT, then the engineering items have to be fixed first.
1. Set all main road speed limits to the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions - on average 10 mph to 15 mph higher than currently and this will improve safety and smooth traffic flow.
2. Set all yellow intervals on the lights for these ACTUAL current 85th percentile approach speeds, typically one-half to one full second longer than the too-short intervals now used. This will improve safety and reduce red light violations - probably by 50% to 90%.
See the research on our website which DC does NOT use to maximize safety. DC sets artificially low posted speed limits and too-short yellow intervals to make MONEY, often at the expense of reduced safety. It is predatory, but very profitable. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI (frequent DC area visitor to see family in southern Maryland)

by James C. Walker on Aug 6, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

Just offer up here that stop lights aren't "legitimate" for cyclists unless more than 80% of cyclists come to a full stop and do not proceed until it turns green. This is known as the "80% Rule".

If cyclists are blowing through the light, the light does not, by definition, apply to cyclists.

by oboe on Aug 6, 2012 3:40 pm • linkreport

Also, we need to allow cyclists to ride at the 80th Percentile speed on all area sidewalks in the DC region. Obviously, cyclists should be the ones to determine the safe speed of free-flowing traffic under good conditions.

As to pedestrians--fuck 'em, they can determine their own optimal free-flowing speed.

(You guys know you're quite insane, don't you?)

by oboe on Aug 6, 2012 3:43 pm • linkreport

Raising speed limits on city streets by 10-15mph will result in improved safety? Improved safety for whom exactly?

Most of the "research" on your site pertains to highways and little pertains to streets in urban environments. Looks to me like you want to just set speed limits at however f-ing fast drivers seem to want to drive (that's the 85th percentile), otherwise drivers will think we're "unfair." That seems to conflict with the current process, which is fair when you actually consider all road users. We actually look at the safety of all road users and set a limit that protects the most vulnerable among them - those without a one-ton steel envelope. That's why the speed limit is 30mph or lower.

by MLD on Aug 6, 2012 3:47 pm • linkreport

@MLD,

Anything that prevents drivers from doing exactly what they would be doing in a world without pedestrians or cyclists is a "War On Drivers".

by oboe on Aug 6, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

For MLD: The 85th percentile method to set posted speed limits applies for urban roads just as much as it does for rural roads and highways.

To understand this, please read the booklet by the Michigan State Police "Establishing Realistic Speed Limits" from the state website at www.michigan.gov/speedlimits

Also please understand the first three rules about posted speed limits:
1) The posted limit has little or no effect on travel speeds
2) See rule #1
3) See rule #2

Absent 24/7 enforcement everywhere which no city can afford, the best method is to make the flow as smooth as possible with as little speed variance as possible. You do that with 85th percentile limits, NOT by posting limits ignored by 50% to 90% of all drivers under good conditions.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

by James C. Walker on Aug 7, 2012 12:11 am • linkreport

Absent 24/7 enforcement everywhere which no city can afford, the best method is to make the flow as smooth as possible with as little speed variance as possible.

Well, I'd say the cameras do a pretty good job of 24/7 enforcement AND we don't pay for it - we make a profit!

Again, to your "best method" I say, BEST METHOD FOR WHOM? Free flowing traffic with little speed variance, even if it's 40mph+ is the safest super-safe for pedestrians and bicyclists? Right. That Michigan link, like your website, offers nothing of research quality that says anything about safety for all users. It just regurgitates your 85th percentile BS.

I would not expect the "National Motorists Association" to give a crap about anyone who's not in a car though!

by MLD on Aug 7, 2012 7:56 am • linkreport

@MLD,

Again, to your "best method" I say, BEST METHOD FOR WHOM?

Right, but if we let drivers go as fast as they want, they'll drive all other modes out of the public space. Then we'll all wonder what you're on about. After all, no one walks/drives there anyway!

by oboe on Aug 7, 2012 9:27 am • linkreport

For MLD, oboe and others:
1) Haven't you noticed the very uneven flow near speed cameras in the DC area? Traffic flows at 40-45 in places between the cameras, then slows abruptly to 30-35 near the cameras, then returns to 40-45 100 yards later.
2) Assume you are a pedestrian or cyclist on a main commuting route and the actual 85th percentile speed is 46 mph in a particular area. This will mean that about 65% to 85% of the traffic will be between 37 and 46 mph +/- one or two mph (The 10 mph band with the most vehicles, called the Pace, what the lay person calls the normal traffic flow). Do you want the numbers painted on the signs to say 45 mph to tell you the truth about the actual traffic speeds around you? Or do you want them to say 30 or 35 mph to lie to you and give you a false sense of security about what to expect in the actual traffic speeds?
3) This is not new methodology. I have a 1941 National Safety Council Report on Speed which says to post the limit between the 80th and 90th percentile speeds of traffic for the best results. 85th percentile methods are one of the very oldest and most proven engineering principles of traffic safety -- IF safety is the real goal.
4) It is a total myth that drivers will go faster and faster without enforcement controls. Most people drive to what they can see, the speeds they find safe and comfortable for them. A super-majority (85%) get it right most of the time and that super-majority will define the safest speed limit to post more accurately than any arbitrary number, high or low.
5) Do note that the Michigan link is official state policy and the booklet is written by the Traffic Services Section of the Michigan State Police - the department responsible for traffic safety statewide.

DC area traffic enforcement is primarily about dollars, not safety. Even AAA Mid-Atlantic takes them to task for the very predatory red light and speed camera programs that make millions of dollars every year - most of it taken from very safe, sane, sober, competent drivers that are not creating safety risks for anyone.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

by James C. Walker on Aug 7, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by oboe on Aug 7, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

Do you want the numbers painted on the signs to say 45 mph to tell you the truth about the actual traffic speeds around you? Or do you want them to say 30 or 35 mph to lie to you?

My False Choice Alarm just went off (I think they're 19.99 on Amazon).

What I want is the speed limit set to 30 - if that is deemed to be the speed needed for safety - and then ruthlessly enforced with speed cameras, while the road is redesigned to slow drivers down with visual cues like a narrower road, trees, bulbouts etc...

So my answer is neither.

by David C on Aug 7, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

Haven't you noticed the very uneven flow near speed cameras in the DC area?

No.

It is a total myth that drivers will go faster and faster without enforcement controls.

Is it. Then why did average driving speed go up in South Dakota after the speed limit was increased?

And how do you explain the results of this Canadian study (page 26) that shows that almost every time the speed limit is increased, crashes go up and almost every time they're decreased crashes go down (in a few cases there is no change, and in one it goes against the trend, but that was a count of fatal crashes and happened to coincide with the widespread adoption of seat belts and drunk driving laws)?

Most myths aren't backed up by observable phenomenon.

by David C on Aug 7, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

James Walker,

I think this is an opportunity for a cultural exchange. It's hard to understand a different perspective without experiencing it yourself. I suggest that next time you and your family are in DC or NYC, you rent bikes (very inexpensively from the bikeshare system) and bike around the city. After that, I think you'll see why setting speed limits optimized for drivers isn't safe for other road users.

Also, would you agree that 24/7 enforcement of speed limits on all parts of the road at all times (which is feasible by blanketing the city with cameras) would bring traffic speeds significantly closer to compliance with the law?

by Falls Church on Aug 7, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport

For David C. :
I have seen that compilation in other studies as well. Many of them are from other countries with different cultural behavior patterns. Of those in the USA, several were funded by parties in the revenue stream from tickets and are thus a long way from unbiased. The Streff & Shultz study about 55->65 in Michigan is a particularly error filled study. They made no attempt to measure vehicle miles traveled or to study the effects area-wide or statewide. I have talked to one of the authors in person and he confirmed those errors. The statewide fatality rate dropped significantly in Michigan in the years after the rural freeway limit went from 55 to 65, as it did in most states. The Lave and Elias study from the same time frame showed that states adopting 65 had greater reductions in the fatality rates than those which kept 55.
AND, please look at page v in the front of the Canadian study which echoes what I and the Michigan State Police believe is true.
James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

by James C. Walker on Aug 7, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

For David C. :
It IS possible to reduce actual travel speeds by degrading the driving environment with narrower lanes, fewer lanes, curb projections, artificial curves, etc., etc. These methods are not usually used on major commuting arteries because they sharply reduce the road capacity. They may also cause diversion to other nearby streets that are less capable of handling the volumes safely.

On the thought of ruthless enforced with cameras, you have to bear in mind that the cameras are expensive - so adding a lot more of them costs a lot. Then, if they are really effective to reduce speeds, the numbers of tickets will not produce the revenue to pay for them. Most cities will NOT operate a camera program at a financial loss.

And the predatory camera companies will NEVER install their cameras without being paid handsomely for the equipment and their services. ATS, Redflex and the other camera companies are for-profit businesses. Their only real interest is more tickets and more money. Note that both ATS and Redflex are based in Arizona and Redflex has their parent company in Australia. So, the camera company share of the take leaves the local economy and if it is Redflex, a portion leaves the US economy. Many people do not feel this is very smart in tough economic times.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

by James C. Walker on Aug 7, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

For Falls Church:
I live in Ann Arbor which is a VERY cyclist and pedestrian environment. I understand the issues very well and the correct answer is almost always realistic posted limits.

See my answer to David C. about the ability to blanket the city with cameras. It is not financially feasible.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

by James C. Walker on Aug 7, 2012 12:54 pm • linkreport

These methods are not usually used on major commuting arteries because they sharply reduce the road capacity.

They reduce the capacity for cars but by improving the environment for peds and bikers, it's certainly possible to increase the throughput of people on the artery.

I live in Ann Arbor which is a VERY cyclist and pedestrian environment. I understand the issues very well and the correct answer is almost always realistic posted limits.

I lived in Ann Arbor for a little while as well and I'd say they don't have the same issues with road safety for bikes/peds as DC. Also, have you spent time biking the roads of Ann Arbor. Trust me, it will give you a different perspective than you can obtain from behind a steering wheel.

Then, if they are really effective to reduce speeds, the numbers of tickets will not produce the revenue to pay for them. Most cities will NOT operate a camera program at a financial loss.

They will if voters ask for that. Many voters are more interested in safety than a few dollars spent on a camera program.

by Falls Church on Aug 7, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

Many of them are from other countries with different cultural behavior patterns.

And those matter how?

The statewide fatality rate dropped significantly in Michigan in the years after the rural freeway limit went from 55 to 65, as it did in most states.

Which can't be independently related to the speed limit change. It coincided with less drunk driving and wider use of seat belts/safer cars. What happen to crash rates?

the Lave and Elias study from the same time frame showed that states adopting 65 had greater reductions in the fatality rates than those which kept 55.

True. But the ascribed that difference to the fact that enforcement resources were moved to other areas than speed enforcement and that drivers moved onto highways from smaller roads they had been using because of enforcement. But now we have speed cameras. So we don't have to move police from more important safety functions to enforce speed limits. And we can cover every road which should limit shifting.

As to how expensive it is - cameras are money makers. DC has more than 100 cameras I think and wants to add more. If there is a limit to how many cameras we can support, we haven't hit it yet.

by David C on Aug 7, 2012 1:06 pm • linkreport

See my answer to David C. about the ability to blanket the city with cameras. It is not financially feasible.

Exactly. Which is why you a) move the cameras around regularly; b) don't publish where the cameras are; and c) possibly supplement with "fake" cameras.

Problem solved.

by oboe on Aug 7, 2012 1:13 pm • linkreport

IF safety were the goal for ticket cameras in DC, which is most certainly is NOT, then the engineering items have to be fixed first.

Why shouldn't we use money from the cameras to fix the engineering mistakes of the past ie. Re-engineering the road as I and others have suggested?

et all main road speed limits to the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions - on average 10 mph to 15 mph higher than currently and this will improve safety and smooth traffic flow.

It will neither improve flow or safety b/c urban streets aren't highways (even on highways variably lowering speeds often improves flow). As an example, If you drive in DC you notice a lot of "hurry up and wait" where one driver hauls ass to a light then slams on the breaks. If I'm behind that driver and just coasting at or below the limit I'm prevented from continuing to roll through as the light changes b/c someone has stopped in front of me. I have to stop, as does the driver behind me and so forth and then we all have to accelerate again. The high speed of one driver has actually reduced flow. Higher speeds aren't the answer and, of course, are extremely dangerous to more vulnerable users.
Additionally, can you point me to some successful retail/shopping/eating district that's situated near a road with high speeds? While you might think 45 is "safer" on major roads, and I disagree, you'd be hard pressed to find a thriving place where this is true. Please keep in mind that I don't consider strip malls on major arterials as successful places. First of all, they are ubiquitous and therefor not special. No one cares about them. Second, they don't produce enough taxes during one life cycle to be sustainable b/c of their single use nature. They are disposable. The BEST places, the ones we love, the ones that prosper over the long-haul, and the ones we pay good money to visit are oases from traffic. We might drive there (and it's probably a bit*h to find a parking spot, btw), but while we're there we walk or bike. It's the same around the world. High speed traffic is anathema to good places for people.

by thump on Aug 7, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by ceefer66 on Aug 7, 2012 7:00 pm • linkreport

Speed cameras tend to cost at least $2,000 per month per camera. (Red light cameras are double that.) If you get enough cameras, say one every other block, to actually reduce speeds on main commuting arteries, the costs will be enormous and the revenue will be very low.

Cities, including DC, don't put ticket camera programs in place to bleed red ink by the barrel full. They put them in place to make money. If they are not profitable, they won't be used.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

by James C. Walker on Aug 8, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

to actually reduce speeds on main commuting arteries, the costs will be enormous and the revenue will be very low.

It would be a nice problem to have.

by David C on Aug 8, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

The elephant in the room here is that speed (and red light) cameras are a business; they are only installed as a revenue sharing agreement with a private company.

There is a massive profit incentive on cameras, and until you remove that the cameras are (rightfully) suspect.

by charlie on Aug 8, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

The cameras will always generate revenue regardless of the argument. But if officials are going to promote camera placement in areas where there is absolutely no pedestrian traffic, then what safety are we talking about? I agree, at least a report (annual, quarterly) needs to be generated on and the overall pedestrian/ vehicle safety per camera location.

by B Riley on Aug 11, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

But if officials are going to promote camera placement in areas where there is absolutely no pedestrian traffic

Why does everyone act as though the only safety we care about is pedestrian safety? Do we not also care about motorist safety? Or have cars gotten so safe that motorists never die any more?

by David C on Aug 11, 2012 10:32 pm • linkreport

Shouldn't there be a grace period/warning first for new cameras? I'm sitting here contemplating how to pay $200 accrued in 5 auto-tickets in just 3 days (all in the < 15 mph over limit) from a new camera placed on a very safe street (not even in front of a school or near a cross-walk) - there has to be some reasonableness to this madness. I'm mad and can't take it any more!!

by D Stuart on Nov 14, 2012 11:19 pm • linkreport

Yes, D Stuart, there should always be a grace period AND some VERY prominent signage for new cameras. But this would sharply reduce the "gotcha" revenue. And, make no mistake, DC has many of its ticket cameras in places where higher speeds than the limits are perfectly safe and normal.

The goal is $$$$, and more $$$$$$, and more $$$$$$$$.

If you are truly mad, talk to friends, neighbors and co-workers to contact the Council and Mayor to demand an end to the speed and red light camera cash registers. Find out which Council people support the money grab programs and encourage people to vote them out.

As long as the DC Council is driven by the revenue, only a change in the people will stop the money grab.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

by James C. Walker on Nov 15, 2012 9:29 am • linkreport

My experience has been that there always is a grace period after a new camera is installed.

by David C on Nov 15, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

I hope everyone is aware that there are now speed cameras on K Street at the Washington Circle underpass (intersection at 23rd Street). The speed limit is a shockingly slow 25MPH for that particular stretch, but maybe it just seems "shocking" because my boyfriend was hit once for going 38MPH and once for going 43MPH, each infraction a stunning $125!

It now just got $250 more difficult for us to pay this month's mortgage. Thanks, District of Columbia!

by MattR on Nov 15, 2012 11:26 am • linkreport

"Yes, D Stuart, there should always be a grace period AND some VERY prominent signage for new cameras."

I can see a grace period after a speed limit is lowered. Why would one be needed for a new enforcement mechanism? Are you saying folks will only drive within the limit when there are traffic cams?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2012 11:37 am • linkreport

MattR, it shouldn't be shocking. The speed limit is posted. What more should DC do to inform your boyfriend of the law?

by David C on Nov 15, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

And, make no mistake, DC has many of its ticket cameras in places where higher speeds than the limits are perfectly safe and normal.

Funny, the speeders out there think every speed limit is too low, and that whatever speed they drive is "perfectly safe and normal" (whatever that means).

Of course, you can bet that the suburban cul-de-sac these folks live on has a posted speed limit of 20 mph. "Hey! *My* kids don't play on this street! I should be able to drive as fast as I like."

I've been driving in this town for decades and have never gotten a ticket. Maybe that's because I take the speed limit signs seriously.

by oboe on Nov 15, 2012 3:01 pm • linkreport

I've made my point, and I don't think it's worth debating, because we're not going to agree. The proliferation of speed and red-light cameras is about money, not safety. If you can afford $125 for a minor infraction, great. If you live a life that is as chaste as Caesar's wife, then good for you.

I've said earlier--MUCH earlier--in this thread that I don't oppose speed limits or fines. But I oppose a policy that is unabashedly based on filling non-existent gaps in D.C.'s budget, and I oppose exorbitant fines for what are inarguably minor infractions.

I'm among the chronically unemployed--20 months now, with the exception of a few months of underemployment--and have been as aggressive as humanly possible in my job hunt. (Trust me.) The hit I have just taken from this means that I have to make some very tough choices this month. I assume moving violations are treated the same way as parking tickets, so if I choose to pay my phone, utility bills and mortgage (for which I will still come up short), the one vehicle in my household will be immobilized, thus preventing my boyfriend from going to his $30,000 job and putting us one step closer to homelessness.

This isn't some abstract, pinheaded, urban-policy argument to me right now.

by MattR on Nov 15, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

MattR, I think you can set up a payment plan with DC for tickets like this. I had a roommate who did that once. Either way, contact them and ask them what your options are.

by David C on Nov 15, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

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