AAA calls College Park speed cameras inaccurate

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Rachel Baye
The speed cameras in College Park are inaccurate and cannot legally be used to issue speeding tickets, AAA Mid-Atlantic said Wednesday.

Provided by Lanham company Optotraffic, the cameras fail to record accurately time-stamped photos and violate both state and county standards, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said at a press conference.

Will Foreman, an area resident who has received 60 tickets from the cameras since they were installed in the fall, has created photos that show it is "mathematically impossible" for vehicles to have been traveling at the speeds recorded by the cameras.

Foreman said he has won the five ticket cases he has taken to court. He will argue another 15 in court Friday, and another 15 in court on Aug. 26.

"They're not going to wear me down, though," he said. "They lie and they steal. It's hideous."

But Optotraffic Senior Account Manager Mickey Shepherd, who manages the implementation of the cameras in Prince George's County, said Foreman won't win the rest of his cases. He said another man tried to use Foreman's argument last week in court, and the judge who decided Foreman's cases said he had been wrong.

Shepherd said the photos Foreman -- and AAA Mid-Atlantic -- are relying on aren't meant to measure speed. They simply prove that the vehicle was there. Each camera uses a laser to measure speed.

The lasers are calibrated daily using four GPS satellites, he added, emphasizing the cameras' accuracy.

The College Park cameras have led to more than 60,000 tickets since they were installed in the fall. They had generated more than $2.4 million as of May, according to Townsend. An estimated $350,000 to $600,000 of that will go to the city.

"Something just doesn't ring right here," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson, calling the cameras "modern-day speed traps" and the city's "new ATM machine." He suggested that College Park return the money collected with the cameras.

Optotraffic's cameras are used in more than 14 municipalities in Maryland, including Brentwood, Berwyn Heights, Mount Rainier, Glenarden and New Carrollton, Shepherd said.

And pretty soon, Prince George's County will install the cameras, too, said county spokeswoman Susan Hubbard.

According to College Park City Manager Joseph Nagro, the cameras have reduced speeding in the city by 83 percent on Metzerott Road, where one camera is located, and other areas in the city have seen significant reductions as well. Nagro and Shepherd denied charges that the cameras are in any way inaccurate or illegal.

Shepherd said the cameras have passed tests by the Prince George's County Police Department as well as other police departments.

"We are disturbed that the information [AAA Mid-Atlantic] provided is inaccurate and misleading," Nagro said. "The purpose of these cameras is and always has been to protect the public safety and we have statistics to prove that it's working."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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