P.G. rolls out new speed cameras for start of school year

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles
Prince George's County will switch on its first speed camera Monday to coincide with the opening of the county's public schools, when about 127,000 students will begin walking, biking and riding the bus to school.

A single camera, stationed on Allentown Road near Isaac Gourdine Middle School and Tayac Elementary School in Fort Washington, will be set up during the first month of the speed camera program.

While dozens of Prince George's County municipalities have made speed cameras a common presence in the county, Prince George's had yet to start its own program until now.

Eyes in the sky
When Prince George's County's speed cameras will be turned on:
Aug. 22, 30-day warning period
Allentown Road, Isaac Gourdine Middle and Tayac Elementary
Sept. 22, no warning period
Muirkirk Road, Montpelier Elementary
Ager Road, Rosa Parks Elementary
Adelphi Road, Northwestern High and St. Marks Elementary
Temple Hill Road, Clinton Grove Elementary
Walker Mill Road, John Baynes Elementary
Ardwick Ardmore Road, Ardmore Elementary and Herbert Flowers High
High Bridge Road, High Bridge Elementary
Owens Road, Barnaby Manor Elementary

Another eight cameras will be installed near county schools beginning Sept. 22, when the county's 30-day warning period expires, according to Lt. Tammy Sparkman, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman.

By the end of the year, the county expects to have 25 speed cameras operating in school zones.

"Our top priority is the safety of our students and those who live and work in Prince George's County," Police Chief Mark Magaw said. "Speeding is a significant public safety issue and the mere presence of the cameras will deter aggressive driving behaviors."

John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic auto club, said the county so far has implemented the program properly by placing the appropriate signs warning which school zones have a speed camera in place.

The size of the school zones, restricted to a half-mile radius around a school, also appears to be in order, he said.

But drivers should be cautious around the new cameras, Townsend said, which will be operated by Optotraffic. The Lanham company, which operates cameras for a majority of Prince George's County municipalities, has received numerous complaints about the cameras improperly citing drivers for speeding.

AAA officials pointed to a College Park speed camera on Metzerott Road run by Optotraffic they say is inaccurate and violates both Maryland and Prince George's County standards.

"Unlike College Park, we're hopeful that the countywide program is going to be an improvement," Townsend said. "But the issue is going to be the same. It's going to come down to the accuracy of the cameras, and the problems you're having in other jurisdictions are going to be magnified and more expansive."

County officials plans to have daily discussions with Optotraffic about the speed camera equipment and the number of citations issued to ensure the program is run properly and the equipment is in good order, Sparkman said.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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