WTOP Reports Speed Cameras Working as Tickets Decline

An August 4, 2015, WTOP 103.5 FM article reported that according to the latest figures for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, fewer speed camera tickets are being issued as people are slowing down when entering speed camera zones. From the article:

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, speed camera tickets have dropped by one-third over the last two years. In fiscal 2013, police issued 360,548 speed camera tickets. In fiscal 2015, the number dropped to 240,730.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, speed camera tickets dropped 20 percent over the same two-year period.  In fiscal 2013, police issued 451,972 speed camera tickets compared with 355,321 issued through the end of March 2015.

The article noted a similar drop in the District of Columbia for 2014, although some attributed the specific reasons for the District’s drop to a difficult winter and poor camera maintenance.  The District’s program is administered differently than Maryland’s programs, making a direct comparison of little use.  In Maryland, speed cameras are limited to school zones, highway work zones, certain low speed residential areas in Montgomery County, and around colleges and universities in Prince George’s County.

Regarding Maryland’s programs, the article offered several reasons for the drop in issued tickets:

Ask speed camera officials and they say the devices are working. In general, they point out that any speed camera program will deliver diminishing returns over time. As people learn where the cameras are located and get tickets, they become more conscious of their speed and slow down in school zones. …

Speed camera officials also point to a halo effect from the cameras. While the law allows the cameras to operate Monday to Friday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., many motorists don’t know that and slow down at other times as well.

Apps like Waze, TomTom and others are responsible for the drop in speed camera tickets. These apps alert drivers to speed cameras as they approach them.

The article also noted that the two counties experienced a drop in net income as a result of the declining tickets, including a 40 percent drop for Prince George’s County from FY 2013 to FY 2015 ($7.8 million to $4.6 million).  To put that revenue in context, the total approved operating budget for Prince George’s County for FY 2015 was $3.1 billion.  This means that speed camera income accounted for approximately 0.15 percent of the County’s total operating budget.

MACo has advocated that speed cameras are an invaluable public safety tool but should not be viewed as a source of revenue as income generated from a properly run program will decline over time.