- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

The District collected more than $1.6 million in fines during the month of November from photo-radar citations, more than they collected in the program's first three months combined, preliminary figures show.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey has repeatedly said the use of photo-radar and red-light cameras is about safety, not money. He reiterated that point yesterday on his weekly radio show, responding to criticism from House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who says the program invades people's right to privacy for what appears to be a revenue booster.

"Mr. Armey misses the point. Sixty percent of all fatal accidents [in the District] are speed-related," Chief Ramsey said on the WTOP's "Ask the Chief" program.

"It's better to pay a ticket than attend a funeral of someone close to you who died because of a reckless driver," Chief Ramsey said.

Metropolitan Police Department officials said automated traffic enforcement is proven to reduce the number of car accidents and save lives. They cited studies that show positive improvements to traffic safety, conducted by other jurisdictions using the cameras.

"Photo radar has proven to be successful in reducing speeding and saving lives," D.C. police spokesman Kevin P. Morison said yesterday. "The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia estimates after the first full year of deployment, the photo-radar program saved 50 lives and prevented 4,000 injuries and 9,000 crashes," said Mr. Morison.

He said other studies in Mesa, Ariz.; Victoria, Australia; and Edmonton, Alberta, showed similar results. Chief Ramsey said the number of red-light runners went down by more than half in the three years of red-light camera enforcement.

But the use of red-light cameras hit a legal obstacle in San Diego, where the program was halted in September after Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Styn threw out 292 citations and ordered a complete study. It was discovered by the police department that the city's vendor, Lockheed Martin IMS, placed the cameras too close to the intersection and reduced the yellow-light time.

"It's true in a few intersections we found a few more accidents than prior to the red-light photo enforcement. At some intersections we saw no change at all, and at several intersections we actually saw an increase in traffic accidents," San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano said on ABC News' "Nightline" in September.

The Los Angeles Times reported that accidents are also up in that city. A Nov. 6, 2001, article reads: "At three of the four intersections where cameras were installed nine months ago, accidents are up slightly, but not as much as the 11 percent increase citywide."

People who are aware of the red-light camera enforcement are slamming on their breaks and stopping so far from the intersection that other drivers are rear-ending them, said Richard Diamond, spokesman for Mr. Armey, Texas Republican. As to the argument that speed-camera use is about safety and not money, Mr. Diamond said the revenue numbers speak for themselves.

Mr. Armey told The Washington Times in a recent editorial board luncheon he was concerned about city governments and private companies working together to govern individuals.

"What has always bothered me about this is, there is a coalition between city governments and private enterprise to install these cameras based on criteria that has little to do with traffic safety," said Mr. Armey.

D.C. police have issued 259,474 red-light camera tickets and collected $14 million in fines since the program began in 1999, Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said this week.

In four months of speed-camera enforcement, the city collected $3,111,791 from 43,955 citations paid, department figures show. Of that, the District is estimated to have taken in $1,837,096. Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which receives $29 per photo-radar ticket paid through its contract with the city, has taken in $1,274,695.

Chief Ramsey said he expects a new flat monthly fee contract between ACS and the city to be completed by the end of January.

The police department has issued 120,107 speed-camera tickets.

Almost half of those tickets went to Maryland drivers and 15 percent to Virginia drivers. The number of citations has gone up steadily every month: there were 7,667 in August; 23,553 in September; 42,355 in October and 44,532 tickets issued in November.

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