Stop sign, crosswalk cameras coming to D.C. this summer

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Photo - Speed camera, NE Washington D.C., Thursday,  Dec 5, 2012
Speed camera, NE Washington D.C., Thursday, Dec 5, 2012
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

D.C. is planning to install traffic cameras early this summer to catch drivers who roll through stop signs and don't yield for pedestrians at crosswalks.

The cameras will dish out $50 tickets for stop sign violations and $75 tickets for cutting in front of pedestrians. D.C. police promised to install the cameras last fall, but now police spokeswoman Gwen Crump says it won't be until early summer that the 32 stop sign cameras and 16 crosswalk cameras will be deployed.

"We've been in implementation since [October] and expect to roll out these new units in early summer," said Crump. "We will announce the new technology as we move closer to finalizing it."

Camera program manager Lisa Sutter said last summer that the cameras would ticket only "egregious violators" who speed through intersections and that the crosswalk cameras would be placed at intersections known for pedestrian accidents.

"We're going to take a very clear, deliberative approach," she said in August.

The portable cameras will be placed near schools and key pedestrian intersections, said Crump. They can be moved around to target problem areas.

The arrival of the stop sign and crosswalk cameras comes just after a new survey showed that the new cameras have less support than red-light and speed cameras. D.C. made a record $85 million from tickets from those cameras in its last fiscal year.

While 87 percent and 76 percent of 801 D.C. residents surveyed favored red-light and speed cameras, respectively, just 50 percent favored stop sign cameras, and 47 percent favored crosswalk cameras.

While hundreds of communities have embraced red-light cameras and speed cameras, both of which the District has had for more than a decade, few have rolled out stop sign or crosswalk cameras. Stop sign cameras in a handful of California state parks angered motorists there, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2011. Glen Echo petitioned Maryland for a stop sign camera last year, but the effort fell flat.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said he thinks D.C.'s new cameras will lead to an "explosion of tickets," but he said he thinks they will make pedestrians safer.

"I think people are going to have some real concerns about how these are implemented," he said, adding that the District should educate drivers on what constitutes a complete stop is before ticketing motorists. "I guarantee you at the end of the day most of those tickets will be for people committing the less flagrant crimes."

Crump promised the cameras would come with an "educational phase" to let people know about them and the behaviors the cameras are targeting.

Mark Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also had concerns about the cameras.

"One of the issues that the program will raise which was similar to the issue with the red-light cameras is whether people will be given due process rights to challenge any fines they might receive," he said. "There should be a careful examination if this is an efficient and economic way to protect public safety."

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner