Most D.C. residents support traffic cameras, survey finds

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Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

Despite D.C. raking in record dollars from its ever-growing traffic camera network, most residents support the speed and red-light cameras, a new study shows.

Eighty-seven percent of 801 people surveyed supported the city's use of red-light cameras, and 76 percent supported speed cameras, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found.

Researchers interviewed about 100 D.C. residents from each ward in November, finding support for the traffic cameras despite 58 percent of people saying they had received a camera ticket and 67 percent saying they knew someone who had received one.

"We had done a telephone survey in Washington on red-light cameras not that long ago, so we knew that the majority supported cameras, but we were surprised by the large majorities of people that supported not just red-light cameras but speed cameras," said Anne McCartt, one of the study's authors.

McCartt said she also was surprised by the number of people who said they deserved the camera tickets they got -- 59 percent.

D.C.'s camera program raked in $85 million in traffic fines last year and continues to face criticism that its purpose is revenue, not safety. Survey takers who opposed speed cameras most often said they disliked them for that reason -- fear that city leaders were finding an easy way to collect more cash.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend, who has criticized D.C.'s camera program in the past, said his organization supports traffic cameras "when complemented with safeguards." He added that he hadn't had time to review the survey.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which deploys the cameras, said residents continue to request traffic cameras in their neighborhoods.

"The survey results are welcome news that validates that most people -- even those who have received tickets -- recognize that Automated Traffic Enforcement makes us all safer on the roads," police spokeswoman Gwen Crump said in an email. "MPD's goal is to change people's habits of speeding and running red lights, which this program has done."

The survey found lower support for cameras that D.C. is planning to install soon -- stop sign and crosswalk cameras. Fifty percent of those surveyed supported stop sign cameras, and 47 percent supported crosswalk cameras that would catch drivers who don't give the right of way to pedestrians.

D.C. has more than a decade of experience with traffic cameras, installing its first red-light cameras in 1999 and speed cameras in 2001.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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