Greater Greater Washington

Gray slightly tweaks camera fines to stave off larger change

This morning, DC Mayor Vince Gray proposed some changes to the District's speed camera fines. It seems to be an attempt to stave off more significant changes in a bill from Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh, which is having a hearing on Monday.


Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

Gray's plan would lower fines for speeding up to 10 mph from $75 to $50, though MPD is generally not writing tickets for speeding at this level (though the law lets them if they choose). Speeding from 11-20 mph over the limit would decrease from $125 to $100.

Meanwhile, Gray would raise the fine for speeding over 20 mph from $250 to $300. He also announced something DDOT previously said at the task force, which is that they are reviewing speed limits and may raise some.

The Wells-Cheh bill, by contrast, would lower fines for 0-10 and 11-20 to $50, as well as fines for other infractions like blocking the box or not fully stopping at a stop sign.

Gray said he will use some of the money to hire 100 new police officers. That's fine, though if the police officers don't focus on traffic, then it ultimately is just using camera revenue for things other than road safety.

We need to do more for traffic safety. DC is adding a few cameras which will make a big impact, but there's a lot of dangerous driving out there. A few cameras with high fines will stem a little bit of it and raise a bunch of money. I want to see us stem a lot more of it, and the only realistic way to do that is to expand the cameras significantly.

A major element of the Wells-Cheh bill is a provision that some camera revenue goes into a fund the Metropolitan Police Department can use to buy more cameras. Regardless of the level of fines, it's critical to set up a system whereby the stock of cameras can automatically grow over time.

It's also critical to ensure that the political blowback from speed cameras doesn't stop the District government from adding more. Now, it's not clear what exactly is necessary to achieve this. If Gray had 3-4 more years on his mayoralty, there might be little need to change the fines. Gray shows no interest in curtailing the plan whatsoever, regardless of fines, and in fact is resistant to lowering fines.

The DC Council might have disapproved some contracts for new cameras, but it couldn't. The next year's budget counts on a lot of revenue from cameras, which means that if councilmembers had wanted to delete the cameras, they would have had to fill a big budget hole.

What about in the future? If Gray doesn't run for reelection, as most speculate he won't, then the next mayor might have a different view. Maybe the next mayor will be so hostile to cameras that it won't matter how high or low the fines are. Or maybe he or she will keep cameras going no matter what.

From a safety point of view, fines don't need to be high as long as it's having a deterrent effect. At the press conference, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she doesn't believe $50 fines are enough to deter, but council staff could find no studies that showed any conclusive correlation between fine size and driving behavior.

That suggest that high fines don't really improve safety. On the other hand, it also means that lowering fines probably won't do anything for safety eitherunless lowering fines changes the political dynamic and allows more cameras.

It's not clear it will. AAA's John Townsend participated in the task force, and said in the meetings that AAA would support cameras as long as they're not for revenue. But then, last week AAA still came out with a provcative study of how many dollars certain cameras brought in, and got a raft of sympathetic stories in the press.

From a purely abstract point of view, lowering fines is the right thing to do. Punishments should be high enough to deter lawbreaking, but don't need to be higher just to punish. A lot of people believe, despite academic evidence to the contrary, that cranking up punishments fights crime or unsafe driving; past a certain point, it doesn't.

From a political point of view, on the other hand, it's worth doing this right thing if it achieves a greater goal. Expanding cameras, and making streets safer, should be that goal. If the bill sets aside a fund for MPD to buy more cameras, that could significantly streamline the process.

If lowering fines blunts political blowback, that's worth a lot. However, if speeders still complain, and AAA's Townsend will continue to say anything to get attention in the press regardless of lower fines, then lower fines would just give dangerous lawbreakers a windfall for little benefit.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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As always, you can't say "AAA was right" but there were right here. When 10 cameras generate something like 50% of the revenue, and 3 generate 30%, you've got some problems. And those 3 are on what should be interstates.

"A major element of the Wells-Cheh bill is a provision that some camera revenue goes into a fund the Metropolitan Police Department can use to buy more cameras."

That is exactly the problem. The money sholuld go into the general fund.

Another aspect is you need some sort of independent body to pick where cameras should go. I think it is pretty evident from the AAA report that the locations of those top 10 cameras is not based on any metric derived from safety.

by charlie on Nov 2, 2012 11:37 am • linkreport

charlie: The AAA report said nothing useful. It just said that the cameras in the locations with a lot of traffic generate more revenue. There was no analysis of revenue compared to traffic volume.

by David Alpert on Nov 2, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

If you want to blunt political blowback, the most important thing is focusing camera locations on the places that are most important for ped safety rather than locating some cameras for their revenue potential. Most people are pro safety. The controversial part is when cameras are located with the primary goal of maximizing revenue, rather than focusing on areas heavily used by peds.

by Falls Church on Nov 2, 2012 11:49 am • linkreport

@DaveAlpert, no, it said something very very useful. And it was a FOIA request.

The top three cameras were on NY ave, and 2 on 295. All places where they are being put with artifically low speed limits to gin up revenue. No concerns about pedestrians or bikes there! And the 4th was also on 295.

As to volume, I did a back of the envelope calculation and something like 1% of people using that road got tickets. Hardly the pervasive law breaking you have alleged.

There were one or two cameras on the top 10 list that might have safety concerns; looking at the map I could see there were not on interstates.

Intersting you don't even link to the AAA report.

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/10/d-c-speed-camera-revenue-yields-23m-in-2012-aaa-reports-81362.html

by charlie on Nov 2, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

At a certain point the fines cross the line from "deterrent" to "confiscatory". Where one draws this line is subjective. A comparison to other costs of driving would be helpful to determine where this line should be. Insurance surcharges for moving violations would be a good place to start.

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

Parking enforcement is part of DPW, right? Could a similar arrangement be made for traffic enforcement? Ie. officers who can ticket for moving violations but not have other police responsibilities? Seems if you assign MPD to traffic enforcement inevitably people demand them to fight supposedly "real" crime or ask "don't they have something better to do?"

by Rob P on Nov 2, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

The cameras should remain on DC-295. It is much safer to drive now than it was 10 years ago, presumably because of the cameras. But to make it less of a speed trap, they really should add lighted signs telling people their speed and that they need to slow down, a mile before each camera.

The notion that cameras are only about bike-ped safety is wrong. The majority of people killed on the highways are drivers, many of whom were doing nothing wrong and were inncent victims of reckless driving.

If only we had a camera for dangerous lane changes!

by Jim Titus on Nov 2, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

What Jim said.

Cameras on highways are absolutely appropriate where there are speed transitions, or merge or exit areas, especially where sight lines may be lessened due to the road curving or topography. Basically, wherever it would be dangerous for a speeding car to suddenly come upon other cars going at a much lower speed.

by Crickey7 on Nov 2, 2012 12:20 pm • linkreport

Crickey, you are exactly right, the problem is most of those cameras cited above by Charlie are not in those places, but straightaways. Certainly the southernmost one on 295 just north of the beltway and the one on New York Avenue are nowhere near merges, exits, or bends in the road.

I'm generally not in favor of speed cameras because of trap cameras like these. If they were confined to areas that really needed them I, and I assume a lot of other opponents, would be much less hostile towards them.

by Ted on Nov 2, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport

Is there a way to read GGW without the pro-camera propaganda? Posts aren't tagged, so I don't think there's a way.

by yatesc on Nov 2, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

"Parking enforcement is part of DPW, right? Could a similar arrangement be made for traffic enforcement? Ie. officers who can ticket for moving violations but not have other police responsibilities? Seems if you assign MPD to traffic enforcement inevitably people demand them to fight supposedly "real" crime or ask "don't they have something better to do?""

You then run up against the problem of "What happens when someones license is suspended/revoked/never had one in the first place?" A surprisingly large number of people I pull over have some sort of issue with their license that requires that I arrest them (i.e. no permit, suspended/revoked). You also have the issue of what are civilians going to do if the people they have stopped aren't happy and they want to fight the DPW people.

The easiest way to increase enforcement would be to use the money to fund increased manpower so we could dedicate a few units to do traffic in certain districts or fund overtime details so officers could work overtime doing traffic. Every district has guys who love running traffic. Why not give them a chance to enforce traffic laws and make some extra money at the same time?

by Officer Friendly on Nov 2, 2012 12:47 pm • linkreport

How about diverting some of the 295 camera revenue into commercial vehicle enforcement, which is currently non-existent in this city (and which would then bring in its own revenue).

Assigning just one officer to check trucks for uncovered loads of gravel would be a nice start.

Actually manning the 295 weigh station once in a while would be another.

Then we can go after the tour buses with bad emissions that idle all day on the streets.

by dcdriver on Nov 2, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

Yes: commercial vehicle enforcement. Maybe on the 10- or 20-ton dump trucks rumbling down the narrow streets of Shaw posted with "No Thru Trucks" signs? Or the christianistic tour buses that park illegally on Pennsylvania Ave NW? That would be great.

by Sydney on Nov 2, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

I still don't get how the presence of a few unliked cameras negates the whole need for increased enforcement.

I understand (and am fine with) the political necessity but in a city that plans on installing hundreds of cameras its amazing to me that its just a couple that determine the entire fate of the program.

/and lets not even get into the fact that I think those cameras are probably needed there anyway. I only drive on 295 at non-peak times and don't know how people do it otherwise. I feel like luck is more important than skill if one is trying to get from the Pennsylvania bridge to northbound 295.

by drumz on Nov 2, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

I'd love to see a speed camera at Virginia Ave. & 7th St SE, where folks getting off the freeway fail to slow down in an increasingly residential area. But the camera in the Conn Ave tunnel under Dupont Circle? That's sneaky and greedy.

by City Walker on Nov 2, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

@drumz; I don't think the precese of a few bad cameras takes away from the entire program.

It does strongly sugget that the existing system is set up to maximize revenue generation rather than safety.

The problem is revenue and costs. A vastly expanded program probably would not meet a CBA. You can see how quickly it drops off on the top 10, it would be interesting to look at the bottom 50 or so.

@JimT; it would be intersting to compare the drop in fatalities with the general drop in the last 10 years. Better medical care, safer cars, and less driving in the past 4 years probably has a very large weight - far more than the cameras.

by charlie on Nov 2, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

@City Walker

Cars need to slow down through the tunnel. As a cyclist, it is scary (and likely dangerous) to have cars flying by so fast. Remember, a tunnel is not a highway!

by sk on Nov 2, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

@yatesc: yeah, don't click on "read more".

by 7r3y3r on Nov 2, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

Charlie,
except that every conversation we (collectively as GGW) talk about cameras in general it comes down to those few cameras. Which by now you'd think that we would just know to do what those cameras are trying to get us to do. Which is the point of having them.

The CBA I'm not as worried about. Obviously the city should be financially prudent but it has safety goals first and foremost. Unless we'd rather divert this money to IRL police/traffic officers.

by drumz on Nov 2, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

Drumz,
I think it comes down to those few cameras because those are the ones in the highest volume areas, so they are the ones that people see the most and are the ones that catch the most drivers and therefore get people the angriest.

My guess is that there are few people who support traffic cameras, either in general or specific ones at specific locations, once they get caught. I've gotten five speed camera tickets: on 295, in the 395 tunnel, on New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park, on East West Highway in Takoma Park, and on the Baltimore Beltway. I theoretically think traffic cameras are a good idea but have done a rather good job of convincing myself that these five cameras are put in bad locations to maximize revenue irrespective of safety. As irrational as it is, there's probably a lot of other people that feel the same way, probably relating to that oft-quoted statistic that 90% of people consider themselves to be better than average drivers.

Now red light cameras, on the other hand, should be at every intersection. (But then again, I've never gotten a red light camera ticket.)

by Ted on Nov 2, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

At a certain point the fines cross the line from "deterrent" to "confiscatory".

All you have to do is know where the cameras are (and they tell you where they are!) and stay within 10 mph of the speed limit, and the amount you get "confiscated" from you is $0.

That said, I don't know how they will be able to defend fines from 0-10 mph of the speed limit. It's too easy to challenge, and it doesn't present a tangible safety threat.

by JustMe on Nov 2, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

All you have to do is know where the cameras are (and they tell you where they are!)

Ah so. MPD list 129 locations by my count. Like anybody could possibly remember them all. Not to mention the poor out-of-town visitors that, while trying to navigate this poorly signed city, fight thick and aggressive traffic from the locals, get a little note in the mail 3 weeks after they get home with a $125 fine in a place they don't remember driving through. That's a fair and effective way to control speeding -- NOT.

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

The fair way to control speeding is by posting speed limits signs. If drivers continually fail to abide by the speed limtis they know are there, then that system fails the effectiveness test, and we need stronger medicine.

by Crickey7 on Nov 2, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

Maybe Living Social can market this:

http://laughingsquid.com/nophoto-license-plate-frame-that-thwarts-traffic-cameras/

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 2, 2012 3:43 pm • linkreport

MPD list 129 locations by my count. Like anybody could possibly remember them all. Not to mention the poor out-of-town visitors that, while trying to navigate this poorly signed city,

Right before a traffic camera, there is always a sign with the speed limit and a sign underneath that says "photo enforced." So you have fair warning, and it's not like the photo machines are hidden or anything.

by JustMe on Nov 2, 2012 4:04 pm • linkreport

ere is always a sign with the speed limit and a sign underneath that says "photo enforced."

Not always. But in any case, with traffic and directions competing for attention, that little "photo enforced" bit is is notification in name only, like the fine print in your credit card agreement.

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

Right before a traffic camera, there is always a sign with the speed limit and a sign underneath that says "photo enforced." So you have fair warning

I am not sure where you heard that about the signs, but that is certainly not the case for every camera.

As for the "photo enforced" signs, I have seen signs on highways in other states that say "radar enforced" or even "speed enforced from aircraft" but no one assumes that they mean an speed trap is immediately behind the sign.

it's not like the photo machines are hidden or anything.</>

Many of the newer cameras are nearly impossible to see. They are mounted on posts less than three feet high (no large flashes either it all self-contained now) and there are no lines on the road like in the older cameras. I challenge you to drive a section of highway for the first time at 50 mph and try to spot one of these speed cameras.

As I and many others have said, the problem isn't cameras, or the amount of the fines, or even the number and placement of speed limit signs. The problem is that in many cases the speed limits do not reflect the reality of the given road.

295 is an interstate highway (regardless of the semantics used by DDOT), it has every feature of an interstate including limited access, open sight lines, a median, shoulders, and even those red white and blue interstate signs (at least in the southern section), and a prohibition against pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles. Why that interstate would be 65 or 70 in every other state but only 50 in DC makes no sense at all.

That is one example, N. Capitol, NY Ave, 395, etc are others. Why not put together a task force of police, DOT, and traffic engineers to review the speed limit on all non-residential roads in the city, then set the limits according to real science, modern vehicle technology (like anti-lock brakes), and the actual behavior of drivers. That will result in fair limits, then you can go ahead and enforce the heck out of them.

by dcdriver on Nov 2, 2012 4:55 pm • linkreport

The notion that cameras are only about bike-ped safety is wrong. The majority of people killed on the highways are drivers, many of whom were doing nothing wrong and were inncent victims of reckless driving.

If cameras are their for the benefit if drivers, then why do the organizations that represent the interests of drivers, such as AAA, hate them so much? I'm totally onboard with the idea that we shouldn't design roads from the windshield perspective, but to say that cameras ARE the windshield perspective strikes me as obviously wrong.

While I have no empirical evidence, it seems like drivers are generally opposed to the cameras in places like 295. So, I'd hardly say they're paced their to benefit drivers. It seems pretty clear that they're placed there for the primary benefit of the city's treasury and for the benefit of a small minority of drivers who actually like them.

by Falls Church on Nov 2, 2012 5:00 pm • linkreport

The notion that cameras are only about bike-ped safety is wrong. The majority of people killed on the highways are drivers, many of whom were doing nothing wrong and were innocent victims of reckless driving.

You are exactly right, and this is one of the problems will essentially replacing your entire traffic patrol with cameras (which DC has done). Speeding is just one component of reckless driving and the only one the cameras will catch (in fact, you can be reckless while driving the speed limit). The cameras won't catch tailgating, or unsafe lane changes, or distracted drivers, or drunk drivers. For that you need actual eyes on the road in the form of police officers.

Police officers can also use traffic stops as a way to see if a person is drunk, or has an outstanding warrant, or may be trafficking in drugs or guns. Officers are trained to look for certain things on stops, cameras simply can't do that.

The MPD has become obsessed with speed cameras to the point where they have essentially given up basic policing on the roads. They then trot out poorly analyzed (if at all) statistics (with arbitrary start dates) to show that the cameras are "working" and pat themselves on the back.

Meanwhile that drunk driver drifting across all three lanes of traffic, but doing so under the speed limit, gets a free pass.

by dcdriver on Nov 2, 2012 6:37 pm • linkreport

The cameras on NY Ave and 295 impedes efficient traffic flow.

There is already a lack of decent N/S and E/W arterials in the city. The low speed limits and cameras exacerbate the congestion problem.

Unless, of course, the plan is to make it an absolute pain to drive in DC :)

by WR on Nov 2, 2012 6:57 pm • linkreport

Lower fines here, raise fines there.

Smoke and mirrors tactics.

They must think people are stupid.

This is why I use a radar detector in DC. I don't care if it's illegal. So should be highway robbery.

by ceefer66 on Nov 2, 2012 7:01 pm • linkreport

This is what happens when there are no true freeways through DC and traffic crowds onto narrower, more residential streets.

Since no major roads are going to be built or widened, it seems like the ultimate goal here is to force more people to give up driving.

by WR on Nov 2, 2012 7:20 pm • linkreport

@Jim Titus

The cameras should remain on DC-295. It is much safer to drive now than it was 10 years ago, presumably because of the cameras.

Is there a specific study that you are referring to when you state that 295 is "much safer" now than before the cameras? If so, what is that study?

by Scott on Nov 2, 2012 7:42 pm • linkreport

Rob, I've seen traffic control officers (the guys directing traffic at rush hour) issue some tickets, and my neighbor who works for DDOT confirmed for me the other day that certain non-police officials are able to write tickets. Mostly, I see them writing tickets for not stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk and cell phone violations. Those are major safety wins, as we're generally talking about people taking dangerous actions in heavy traffic with lots of pedestrians around, and for things that traffic cameras can't catch. Sure, we might be missing people with outstanding warrants or suspended licenses in these stops, but the ability for a front-line official to address an immediate danger is important. It's not like the traffic cameras know if the driver's license is suspended...heck, they don't even know who's actually driving.

by Ms. D on Nov 2, 2012 7:43 pm • linkreport

@Scott: Do you recall what DC-295 (a.k.a. Kenilworth Avenue) was like before the first speed cameras were put up? Virtually every time I drove on that road at night back then I was passed by at least one car weaving throughout the lanes at speeds somewhere between 65-75 mph. I probably drove 15 mph above the limit which I would never do anywhere else, and my shock at the racing weavers was exceeded only by the occasional person going one exit at 35 mph.

Nowadays, everybody seems to be traveling at about the same speed.

by Jim Titus on Nov 2, 2012 9:41 pm • linkreport

Can someone explain to me why any fines should be lowered for a person that is breaking the law and doing something illegal. Anyone getting a fine is speeding and therefore breaking the law so why should these criminals be let off.

I would raise fines to start out at $1000 if it was my choice.

by kk on Nov 2, 2012 10:24 pm • linkreport

@Jim Titus

The weaving throughout the lanes that you are describing is not simple speeding. It is reckless driving and is precisely the type of serious infraction (as well as Drunk Driving) that speed cameras do not catch. Instead of punishing these serious offenders, the speed cameras are punishing the safest drivers on the road, those who stay within their lanes and drive within the flow of traffic. I too travel 295 quite frequently, in fact I drive it every day and I can tell you that the speed cameras are not encouraging people to drive about the same speed. What I find every day when I travel on 295 is that people are driving pretty uniformly around 55mph until they reach Benning Road at which, those who know about that speed camera location, dramatically slow down causing dangerous differential speeds with neighboring traffic. I am in a somewhat unique position to observe this phenomena because I drive in the opposite direction from rush hour traffic each day on 295. I posit that the speed cameras coupled with the unreasonable 45mph speed limit may be, in fact, increasing differential speeds and making the freeway less safe. That is why I asked you if you had a study that demonstrated that the speed cameras are making freeways like 295 more safe, because, in my experience, it appears to be doing the opposite.

by Scott on Nov 2, 2012 10:51 pm • linkreport

"We need to do more for traffic safety. DC is adding a few cameras which will make a big impact, but there's a lot of dangerous driving out there."
-----

Speed cameras do NOTHING to catch or stop drunk or reckless drivers, least of all those who aren't driving above the speed limit.

It's notable that those who most frequently shout "speed cameras promote safety and we need more of them!" don't reference impartial, objective, unbiased data to support their claims.

Simply saying "there are less accidents because of speed cameras" is meaningless without data to back it up. And cherry-picked statistics from the primary beneficiary of speed camera ticket revenue (the DC "government") - or from the MPD which now thinks speed cameras are saving them the trouble of enforcement quite frankly don't count for anything.

by ceefer66 on Nov 3, 2012 12:02 am • linkreport

Can someone explain to me why any fines should be lowered for a person that is breaking the law and doing something illegal. Anyone getting a fine is speeding and therefore breaking the law so why should these criminals be let off. I would raise fines to start out at $1000 if it was my choice.

Exactly. Nothing short of the death penalty for any crime is acceptable. Only then will we achieve the level of crime-free society as nazi germany or stalinist russia. Let's start with the death penalty for public drunkeness in Adams Morgan on Saturday night. How dare those people break the law! We could also start levying $1000 fines for anyone violating the city's new noise ordinance. AAny noise above 60 decibels (equal to a typewriter) is now against the law between 10pm and 7am. But really, $1000 is letting those criminals off too easy.

by Falls Church on Nov 3, 2012 12:41 am • linkreport

Let's not forget bikers riding the sidewalk downtown. A small child could be killed by such a biker. A $1000 fine is really insufficient. Won't anyone think of the children!

by Falls Church on Nov 3, 2012 12:46 am • linkreport

@kk,

"I would raise fines to start out at $1000 if it was my choice."
---

Good thing it's not your choice.

by ceefer66 on Nov 3, 2012 12:56 am • linkreport

"If cameras are their for the benefit if drivers, then why do the organizations that represent the interests of drivers, such as AAA, hate them so much?"

I drive. I seldom drive on DC295, but I drive on I395 in DC not infrequently. It frightens me when people go really fast amidst the lane changing. AAA does NOT speak for me!

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 3, 2012 10:04 am • linkreport

"This is why I use a radar detector in DC. I don't care if it's illegal. So should be highway robbery."

I hope we never hear from you about "scofflaw cyclists"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 3, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

I have a suggestion - why don't we have an ongoing thread on what the DC295 speed limit should be, and keep all discussion of that issue there. Then we can discuss the question cameras as a means of enforcement, the proper level of fines, even what speed limits should be elsewhere, without constantly bringing in the question of what the limit on DC295 (which, btw, does not feel like its at interstate standards to me)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 3, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

No. When 3 of the top 4 speed camera revenue generators are on 295, a discussion of the conditions on 295 (including the speed limit) and the merits (or lack thereof) of speed camera placement there is entirely relevant. In fact, 295 should be given even more prominence in these discussions given these revenue generation statistics. BTW... 295 is a limited access highway with no cross streets, no pedestrian traffic, and no bicycle traffic. That is why is is called a freeway. Thus, discussing 295 in the context of other highways is much more appropriate than trying to treat it as if it is another residential street of which is most certainly is not.

by Scott on Nov 3, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

The SE/SW Freeway IS a highway. Down with cameras confiscating our money for driving on highways.

by Michael on Nov 3, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

I hope we never hear from you about "scofflaw cyclists"
-------

You already have and you always will.

I rarely (actually, hardly ever) see drivers run red lights and roll through stop signs without so much as slowing down to look at the traffic. And I've never seen a driver leave the street and jump onto the sidewalk and back again to get around traffic or avoid a red light. I bikes do that every time I'm in DC, whether I'm driving or walking.

And I've never been hit by a car. Bikes have hit me twice.

You have a problem with driving "scofflaws" and speed cameras? Fine. Have your "government" put the speed cameras in locations where they actually DO promote safety and have them make the speed limits on commuter routes and the 295 and 395 freeways reasonable. Then people will actually respect your laws instead of holding them in contempt and finding ways to circumvent them.

DC has implemented speed cameras to prey on commuters, especially commuters from Maryland. I refuse to be prey. And I'm not sorry if you don't like it.

by ceefer66 on Nov 3, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

I'll be sure to mention it at my next meeting with mayor gray.

And it's good to know that we are back to the "bikes are more dangerous" than cars argument.

Meanwhile as I drove from va. On 395 last night I noticed the speed limit sign and the camera notification. I stated at the speed limit and made it to my destination on time.

by Drumz on Nov 3, 2012 3:02 pm • linkreport

"I'll be sure to mention it at my next meeting with mayor gray."
---

Thanks for the favor.

by ceefer66 on Nov 3, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

I drive. I seldom drive on DC295, but I drive on I395 in DC not infrequently. It frightens me when people go really fast amidst the lane changing. AAA does NOT speak for me!

Fair enough. I'd never claim that AAA represents 100% of drivers. However, they are the preeminent organixation representing the interest of drivers andthey do so very effectively (to a fault, and to the detriment of any non-driving interest).

Also, AAA is not categorically opposed to the enforcement of traffic rules because rules make driving safer and easier. They even have a pretty enlightened view of red light cameras but I think it's fair to say that AAA is representative of a solid majority of drivers in opposing cameras such as the ones on 295 that do little for driver safety and cost drivers tens of millions a year in fines.

Here's AAA's official take on red light cameras just to show that they're not categorically opposed to cameras. Categoric support for cameras is almost as unreasonable as categoric opposition to them.

" AAA strongly supports traffic safety measures designed to reduce red light running, including increased enforcement and traffic-engineering improvements. The installation of red light cameras is acceptable when these counter-measures are not successful.However, the sole purpose of red light cameras must be increased safety, not increased revenue."

by Falls Church on Nov 3, 2012 4:03 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz

Congratulations on making it to your destination on time. Considering that you were traveling on a Friday night, one of the biggest dangers that you might have encountered is a drunk driver (precisely the type of serious offense that speed cameras do not catch) so congrats again for not only making it on time but making it to your destination safely despite this shortcoming. You are right. If one leaves early enough, one can follow the speed limit and make it to their destination on time regardless of how low that speed limit is. Heck, we can make the speed limit 5ph on DC's highways and you could still follow the speed limit and make it to your destination on time if you leave a week in advance (although I would argue that this insanely low speed limit would make your trip more dangerous due to the differential speeds that this would cause). Which brings me to the main point. Are the current low speed limits combined with speed camera enforcement making DC's highways (i.e. 295 and 395) more safe? Or are these low limits and cameras making the roads more dangerous by missing the most serious offenders (drunk drivers, reckless drivers), punishing the safest drivers (those who stay within their lanes and within the flow of traffic), and encouraging dangerous differential speeds by having limits that deviate too much from the mean flow of traffic and causing people to dramatically slow down at known camera locations? Do you or Mayor Gray have any answers for these questions? BTW...if you are being serious and are indeed having a meeting with Mayor Gray, you, of all people, should be able to present a study that demonstrates that the speed cameras combined with the low speed limits on DC's highways (295 & 395) are making these highways more safe.

by Scott on Nov 3, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

"However, they are the preeminent organixation representing the interest of drivers andthey do so very effectively (to a fault, and to the detriment of any non-driving interest)."

Aside from most drivers not being members, most who are members are members for road side assistance, and are I think barely aware of their lobbying, and if they are aware of their lobbying, and sympathetic to it, don't necessarily agree on every issue (such as every speed limit) They are not necessarily any more representative of even MOST drivers on any given speed limit, than the AFL CIO is representative of most employees on any economic issue. That a pol takes a stand different from the AFLCIO does not necessarily mean they are against the interests of employees, and that a speed limit is set that the AAA does not agree with does not mean its one that drivers do not support.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 3, 2012 5:10 pm • linkreport

I don't get how driving over the speed limit ensures that one is not drunk or weaving. Its quite possible to be drunk or weaving AND going over the speed limit.

Ceefer - as we have explained ad nauseum, there are infractions which are typical of cyclists, and ones typical of drivers. Sometimes they are dangerous, and sometimes not. Its good for you that you have not been hit by a car - there are many people who no longer walk this earth because they were so hit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 3, 2012 5:15 pm • linkreport

I don't get how driving over the speed limit ensures that one is not drunk or weaving. Its quite possible to be drunk or weaving AND going over the speed limit.

Of course it is possible to be drunk or weaving while going over the speed limit. However, the speed cameras will not punish the drunk or weaving (reckless) drivers and do nothing to stop those behaviors. In fact, these speed cameras may not be making the highways such as 295 or 395 more safe at all. They may even be making these highways more dangerous for reasons already mentioned in this thread. That is the point.

by Scott on Nov 3, 2012 5:39 pm • linkreport

Yes I was being facetious.

And we aren't discussing lowering the speed limit. We are discussing whether we can follow the one that's already posted. I don't see how it's as hard as many claim it is, no matter what time of day it is.

by Drumz on Nov 3, 2012 6:37 pm • linkreport

@Scott. I agree that it would be great to have studies on accident rates, but regrettably I am only able to offer what I have personally observed on Kenilworth Avenue (DC-295) over the years.

You are correct that the crazy high-speed weaving is not the same thing as the speeding that cameras catch. Nevertheless, there is a correlation. Everybody who weaved past the flow of traffic at a speed 20 mph above that flow was also speeding by 30-35 mph. So if those drivers decide to only exceed the speed limit by 11 mph, they become safer. Much less weaving because they are no longer trying to pass the flow--they are in it.

I take it that you still feel uncomfortable with the differential on Kenilworth, which I gather is caused by drivers who speed enough to get the ticket. But can't you see how much less that differential is now, compared to the 1990s? (Did they bump the speed limit up 5 mph in places also?)

I do not agree that we can lay the lack of traffic enforcement at the feet of the cameras. Before then we had speed traps and sobriety checkpoints and the police were pretty much sticking to those two infractions unless someone just happenned to do something naughty right in front of a police car. Nowadays, police in squad cars seem to be talking on cell phones and ignoring infractions anyway.

There is a problem attributing causality. Did speed cameras cause police to be less attentive, or are speed cameras a compensation for less traffic enforcement otherwise? Recall Maryland's threatening PSA's about their aggressive driver imaging--if you were not careful they might just catch you on tape and send you a warning!

If there was a market for betting on this, I am not sure whether I would put my money on cameras catching other indica of reckless driving, or technology simply blocking terrible driving. But I would not put it on police enforcing traffic laws. It simply is not going to happen to an extent necessary to change driver behavior, except perhaps occasionally on a high priority street.

by Jim Titus on Nov 3, 2012 8:45 pm • linkreport

"Of course it is possible to be drunk or weaving while going over the speed limit. However, the speed cameras will not punish the drunk or weaving (reckless) drivers and do nothing to stop those behaviors."

and police enforcement of drunk driving laws won't solve global warming. Or end the civil war in Syria. I fail to see why a policy that addresses ONE problem is bad because it fails to solve all problems. And I do think speeding on I395 is a problem.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 4, 2012 12:27 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Detection (and lack thereof) of drunk driving and reckless driving fall within the context of safety enforcement and the methods the MPD are using in safety enforcement. Thus, the fact that speed cameras do not detect these major infractions are indeed very relevant when discussing which safety enforcement methods we should be using on our highways. In addition, you and I appear to have a fundamental difference in opinion as to what constitutes a "problem" on our highways with respect to speed. You appear to believe that "speeding" (which presumably means anything above the posted speed limit) is a problem while I believe that differential speed and anything that contributes to it (which may include inappropriate speed limits or even the speed cameras themselves) is the problem. In many areas, such as residential streets, our two views would be in agreement but in other areas, such as the limited access highways that we are talking about here, we are in fundamental disagreement.

by Scott on Nov 4, 2012 1:48 am • linkreport

You appear to believe that "speeding" (which presumably means anything above the posted speed limit) is a problem while I believe that differential speed and anything that contributes to it (which may include inappropriate speed limits or even the speed cameras themselves) is the problem.

If only *everybody* were to drive 80+ mph, what a safer place our highways would be.

by oboe on Nov 5, 2012 10:04 am • linkreport

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