- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

A study released yesterday showed that cameras at Montgomery County intersections have reduced the number of crashes and motorists running red lights.

“Our cameras are making a difference,” said County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Democrat, who plans to nearly double the number of cameras next year.

The study by the county police department showed that cameras at 25 intersections reduced the incidence of red-light running by about 21 percent. The 2-year study also showed a roughly 3.5 percent decline in the number of crashes at intersections with the red-light cameras.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and other Republicans lawmakers are opposed to the cameras.

Mr. Ehrlich vetoed a radar-camera bill in May, saying there was no data to support the notion that speed cameras reduce accidents.

Mr. Ehrlich’s spokesman, Henry P. Fawell, said yesterday the cameras raise privacy and constitutional concerns, and that the governor is not inclined to support a red-light camera bill until the issues are addressed.

The county has cameras at the 26 intersections with the most collisions and red-light violations. Officials said yesterday they would add 19 more cameras, for which they must pay a total of $57,000 a month.

The cameras are owned and operated by a private company, which officials said eliminates the argument that the cameras are being run by the county for profit.

“Police cannot be everywhere, so red-light cameras are one more tool that help us enforce traffic safety laws,” said William O’Toole, the county’s acting police chief.

State Delegate Bill Bronrott, Bethesda Democrat, praised Montgomery County’s system and said other county delegates and senators also support the camera plan.

“Our crosswalks and intersections should be safety zones, but an average of 26 people were killed and more than 3,000 others were injured in each of the past five years in red-light running crashes in Maryland,” he said.

The basic fine for running a red light is $75. Only 46 percent of the photos taken by the cameras result in issuance of traffic citations, according to police.

“It was a very bad idea when it went through, and a bad idea to expand the program,” said state Sen. Alexander X. Mooney, Frederick Republican, who has worked to keep red-light cameras out of Maryland. “We are fortunate at least that Gov. Ehrlich vetoed speed cameras last year. I often say it is an intrusive big-government program.”

The issue has also drawn opposition from at least one state Democrat.

“I have opposed the red-light cameras since the beginning,” said state Sen. John C. Astle, Anne Arundel Democrat. “I think they are nothing more than a revenue source for the government. Issues are not necessarily political. They are either right or wrong, and I don’t walk the party line. Mr. Duncan is a good man, and I respect him and hold him in a high regard, but on this I respectfully disagree with him.”



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