- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The District has ramped up its shakedown of local motorists. Escalated photo enforcement means commuters will be paying more out of their pockets with no corresponding increase in safety.

By October, the District’s privately operated speed and red-light cameras will close out the 2009 fiscal year having mailed out a whopping 620,000 tickets worth $46 million. That’s an increase of 104 percent over the number of tickets issued just two years ago. On top of this, Affiliated Computer Services, a city contractor, has begun issuing thousands of fully automated $30 parking tickets using cameras mounted on street sweepers.

According to TheNewspaper.com Web site, which tracks photo-enforcement issues, 4 million automated tickets with a value of $305 million have been mailed on behalf of the District in the past decade. That $305 million is chump change compared to a bigger heist being mapped out by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

City budget documents show that the mayor plans to triple the number of speed cameras on our roads by allowing the city’s other private contractor, American Traffic Solutions, to issue speeding tickets at the existing 49 red-light camera locations. The private companies that operate traffic cameras get a cut of the profits generated for City Hall, so there is a substantial financial incentive to maximize the number of tickets issued. There are numerous documented instances of shoddy traffic-camera maintenance by various contractors, and bogus tickets have been issued to motorists innocent of any moving violation.

Once dozens of traffic cameras are upgraded to issue both speed and red-light citations, the District could easily achieve levels in excess of 1 million photo tickets per year. Given the District’s population of less than 600,000, this ticketing assault is in shooting range of two citations every year for every man, woman and child who resides in the city.

For all the effort invested in collecting copious amounts of cash from motorists, the city has failed to provide a shred of credible, independently verifiable evidence to show its actions have yielded a safety dividend. To the contrary, the Virginia Transportation Research Council’s exhaustive analysis of red-light camera use across the Potomac River showed conclusively that accidents increased by nearly a third at intersections where robotic devices issued photo tickets.

Eventually, area drivers will say enough is enough. As our news pages reported last weekend, more than two dozen ticketing cameras have been vandalized in Montgomery County. These extreme measures are an expression of motorist frustration with elected officials who refuse to recognize that the public does not approve of their extreme measures against motorists.

Make no mistake about it, traffic cameras are about revenue, and revenue only. The motivating factor for bureaucrats is that automated ticketing machines haul in millions to underwrite government spending. Public servants ignore scientific evidence that proves traffic cameras increase accidents because the systems are lucrative. One day, we hope Mayor Fenty and District leaders come to their senses and end this perilous revenue-collection scheme.

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