A D.C. task force appears poised to recommend lowering speed camera fines issued in the District, however red-light camera violations will likely be unchanged.
At a meeting Wednesday, the group, which was assembled by Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells and co-chaired by Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, discussed lowering speeding violations caught on camera in D.C. from an average of $150 to $40.
"I'm convinced that the fines ... have to come down," Wells said during the meeting. "I'm getting so much feedback from the community and a lot of anger about the tickets they're getting now."
The panel first convened this summer after complaints from residents that city officials are using the program as a revenue generator to fill budget gaps. Automated traffic enforcement fines have increased by as much as 500 percent over the past four years in D.C. and reach as high as $250 for speeding offenses, although the most commonly issued ticket is for $150 for speeding up to 20 mph over the limit, according to city figures. The fine for running a red light is $150.
The new fine structure that the task force is considering would put D.C.'s speed camera fines on par with neighboring jurisdictions. The surrounding Maryland counties issue tickets ranging from $40 for speeding to $75 for running a red light. Virginia has only red-light cameras, which yield citations of $50 per violation.
Still, the panel grappled with how to create a new fine structure that was fair and corresponded with the severity of the violation. The suggested new structure is to issue warnings for the first two violations of 5 to 10 mph over the limit, then issue a $40 fine. Drivers speeding 11 to 20 mph over the limit would automatically be issued a $40 ticket, while the current $200-$250 fine for speeders going 20 mph or more over the limit would stay the same.
Some members pointed out that the lag time between getting caught on camera and receiving the ticket -- typically several weeks -- negates the point of being issued a warning for speeding by up to 10 mph. Others took issue with 25 mph speed limits on some wide, commercial streets in the District.
The task force has yet to send its final recommendations to the D.C. Council. The council period ends in December, and any bills not passed expire at the end of the year.