Fewer red light, speed camera tickets in Montgomery County this year

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Photo - LAUREL, MD  - OCTOBER 18:  Cars drive past a red light camera sign on Route 1 October 18, 2002 in Laurel, Maryland. Washington-area sniper investigators have been using red light camera images from around the city in the investigation.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
LAUREL, MD - OCTOBER 18: Cars drive past a red light camera sign on Route 1 October 18, 2002 in Laurel, Maryland. Washington-area sniper investigators have been using red light camera images from around the city in the investigation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Local,Maryland,Transportation,Andy Brownfield,Montgomery County

Montgomery County is on track to issue fewer tickets from its red light and speed cameras this fiscal year than last year, but still has brought in $13 million from them so far this year.

About 291,000 tickets were issued from speed cameras and 25,000 from red light cameras since the start of the fiscal year in July through the end of February, according to data given to the County Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday.

That's almost 40,000 fewer speed camera tickets than were issued the previous fiscal year, but almost 3,000 more red light camera tickets.

Slowing down
Fiscal year Citations Revenue collected
2013 (through Feb. 28) 316,605 $13,223,697
2012 353,517 $15,825,129
2011 369,849 $16,308,257
2010 413,066 $20,321,930
2009 526,399 $24,863,139
Source: Montgomery County police

Public Safety Committee Chairman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, said fewer tickets being issued shows that the cameras are working.

"Our goal is to change behavior," Andrews said. "Usually within a few weeks there is a drop in the number of citations issued as people become aware that there's a camera there. That's good, that's what we want."

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson said it's a good thing that the number of tickets is going down.

"That would appear to be more in keeping with what we hope would happen, if you put a system like this in and you inform people and they learn where the cameras are and they slow down and behave differently in intersections, as a result the number of violators would go down," Anderson said, noting that Montgomery County's program is managed better than the District's, where ticket numbers continue to climb.

However, only about 64 percent of the tickets issued by Montgomery County have been paid.

County Police Department spokeswoman Janelle Smith said the number of unpaid tickets from fiscal 2012 wasn't available Monday due to a county computer outage.

When a motorist fails to pay a red light or speed camera ticket received from Montgomery County, a Maryland driver's vehicle registration is flagged and can't be renewed until the tickets are paid.

Between the cameras' installation in 2011 and March 2012, the county charged a $25 late fee on $40 speed camera tickets and $75 red light camera tickets that weren't paid within 30 days.

The county halted that practice when Maryland District Court Chief Judge Ben Clyburn advised County Executive Ike Leggett that charging late fees may violate a state law that requires all counties charge the same fees for red light and speed camera tickets.

Without the late fees, Montgomery County is losing about $2 million annually in additional revenue.

Montgomery County has 56 fixed-pole speed cameras, six mobile speed cameras and 20 portable camera units. There are 38 red light cameras -- up eight from fiscal 2012.

Richard Harrison, program manager of the Automated Traffic Enforcement Division of the Montgomery County Police Department, said the county is considering about 75 requests for speed and red light cameras. He said the backlog built up over the winter when it was too cold to put traffic sensors in the ground.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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Andy Brownfield

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner