Speed camera on Beltway generates huge number of tickets

Speedy Motorists Racked Up 75,000 Speed Camera Tickets In Capital Beltway Work Zone (AAA News Release)
 MOTORISTS RACKED UP 75,000 SPEED CAMERA TICKETS IN CAPITAL BELTWAY WORK ZONES IN A MATTER OF MONTHS
Speed Cameras Deployed In Suitland Road Bridge Work Zone On I-495 This Summer
 
WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, January 17, 2018) ––That didn’t take long. In just a matter of a few months, nearly 75,000 speed camera tickets were issued to speeding motorists in work zones on the Outer Loop and Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway (I-95/I-495) in Prince George’s County, according to a review of the citation history by AAA Mid-Atlantic. For the error of their scuttling ways and as a result of their bad driving decisions, their wallets and pocketbooks took a direct hit. Scurrying motorists were fined three million dollars. Presumably, they learned the hard way to watch their speed and slow down in the Suitland Road Bridge work zone near Joint Base Andrews, notably the signature home base of Air Force One.
In the six-month period from late July to December, drivers exceeding the posted work zone speed limit by 12 miles per hour (mph), or a speed of 67 mph or more, were on the receiving end of 74,964 citations.. The speed limit in the work zones on I-95/I-495 is 55 mph. The face value of the photo-radar tickets is $3,073,524. Those citations were racked up in the initial phase of the Capital Beltway work zone project. Statewide, speed camera units are currently positioned in ten work zones, generating 315,750 citations, or potentially $12.6 million in revenue, in the period ending December 30. Though state officials are rather reticent to admit it, the statewide work zone speed camera program generated an estimated $115.7 million in fine revenue since its inception in 2010.
 “Year-in and year-out, speed cameras have proven to be an effective deterrent in combating speeding violations and curbing reckless behavior in work zones in Maryland,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Six persons perished and several others sustained serious and life-threatening injuries in work zone crashes in Maryland in 2017. In the last five years between 2012 and 2016, a total of 34 persons lost their lives in work-zone related crashes in Maryland.”
Maryland’s SafeZones mobile enforcement vehicles armed with speed cameras are rotating work zones along northbound and southbound I-95/I-495 (Capital Beltway) near the bridge over Suitland Road in Prince George’s County. Motorists traveling in the northbound direction on I-495 were issued 47,909 speed camera tickets, while 27,055 speed camera tickets were meted out in the work zone on southbound I-495. The number of speed camera tickets racked up in the work zone at the Suitland Road Bridge on the northbound Capital Beltway dropped from 12,896 citations in July to 7,434 tickets in August, as the overall number of speeding infractions tapered off by 5,462 tickets, a 42.3 percent reduction. Ticket totals dipped to 3,919 in September. It represents a 70 percent reduction in work zone speed camera tickets in the three-month period from July to September. However, the number of speed camera tickets increased in the work zone on southbound I-95/I-495 in October, as speeding motorists incurred 11,264 tickets, an increase of 7,345 speed camera citations from September to October, comprising a 187.4 percent month over month increase. Ticket totals receded to 7,130 citations in November, and December’s total was 5,266.  The rate of change or delta is fluid, and continues to fluctuate.
 Motorists heading in the opposite direction incurred fewer tickets. The number of citations incurred in the work zone at the Suitland Road Bridge on southbound I-95/I-495 dropped from 11,902 in August to 6,259 citations in September, according to review by AAA Mid-Atlantic of Maryland SafeZones Automated Speed Enforcement citation history. It represents a reduction of 5,643 speed camera citations month over month, comprising an overall 47.4 percent decrease in the number of speeding infractions caught on camera.  Motorists incurred 663 work zone speeding tickets in October with ticket totals leap-frogging to 4,841 photo-radar citations in November, comprising a monthly increase of 630.1 percent, before falling to 3,168 citations in December.  As a data point, average traffic volume along the interstate interchange is 198,811 to 212,250 vehicles daily. On average, 6.3 million vehicles pass through the interchange each month, for a yearly average of 75.6 million vehicles. Fines are $40, and do not involve points on a driver’s record or insurance penalties.
 Following a 21-day warning period that started July 17, 2017, the Maryland State Police and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) began issuing citations on August 7, 2017. The dual bridge replacement project in both directions of the mainline of I-495 is expected to take three years. The aging I-495 overpass bridge on Suitland Road gained a measure of notoriety in February 2015. During the afternoon rush hour, a chunk of concrete from the overpass suddenly gave away and fell upon a vehicle driven by a grandmother. Although she was unharmed, pieces of the bridge shattered her windows. In the aftermath Maryland ordered “immediate inspections of two dozen bridges,” a move applauded by AAA Mid-Atlantic.
 Maryland’s SafeZones program got off to an auspicious start. In the initial three-year of phase of operation, from 2011 to 2013, Maryland meted out 1,296,824 highway construction zone speed camera tickets to motorists riffling by at a high rate of speed in activated work zones, according to an analysis of Maryland SafeZones data by AAA Mid-Atlantic. Think dollars and cents. Those violations carried a face value of $51,872,960 in fine revenue. As there is “laid up in store” for ticketed motorists, the tally eventually surged to an estimated $103.1 million in revenue through Fiscal Year 2016, calculates AAA Mid-Atlantic.
 As work zones crashes go, they are most likely to occur in Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Montgomery counties, and Baltimore City. Once deployed, the cameras reduce work zone speeding violations by “more than 90%.” Currently, speed camera technology is deployed in nine other work zones in the state, including on Indian Head Highway, which issued 4,473 tickets in November and December. That tally includes 2,596 tickets in the northbound lanes and 1,877 tickets in the southbound lanes. The corridor emerged as the scene of 1,466 traffic crashes, five of them claiming six lives, in the first eight months of 2017.
 Under Maryland’s statewide automated speed camera enforcement law, speed cameras are only authorized in school zones, and work zones on state roads, pursuant to Maryland Transportation Code 21-803.1. An exception is Montgomery County, where the law allows jurisdictions to deploy speed cameras in residential areas with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour (mph) or less, and in school zones. The County’s pioneering automated traffic enforcement program was grandfathered in once the statewide law was adopted. Montgomery County’s speed cameras “function 24 hours per day/7 days a week except in school zones.” Across the county line in Prince George’s County only, speed cameras are also authorized within one-half mile of the periphery and circumference of the main campus of the University of Maryland. 
[Note: Delegate Kris Valderrama is sponsoring PG 302-18 which would allow our county to use speed cameras on MD 210. If our county delegation votes to support this bill, it will be introduced as a local bill in Annapolis this session. If you support this bill or disapprove of it, now is the time to let our delegation know how you feel. Their contact information is here. Our area is in the 26th or 27A Legislative District]
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