- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

The District’s newest photo-radar camera, near the entrance of Gallaudet University in Northeast, has caught more than 10,000 speeding drivers in 15 days and is expected to generate millions in ticket revenue after the one-month warning period ends.

The camera — located in the 600 block of Florida Avenue NE — was activated Feb. 27. Owners of vehicles caught speeding by the camera will be issued tickets via mail beginning March 28.

“In the first 15 days of operation of the stationary camera, it generated 10,284 potential warning citations, averaging out to about 685 a day,” said Kevin Morison, spokesman for Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

Such violations do not carry points in the District, but speeding fines can be as much as $200.

Until the recent deployment on Florida Avenue, speed cameras had been placed in police cruisers at strategic spots throughout the city.

Police said the site was chosen as the city’s first fixed-camera location because of chronic speeders in that area.

Four speeding-related fatalities — three vehicular crashes on Oct. 7, 1998, Jan. 4, 1999, and Nov. 17, 2001, and one pedestrian death on Feb. 27, 1999 — have occurred in the area in recent years.

Neighborhood residents applaud the camera’s installation, calling it a long-overdue action in light of the Florida Avenue’s proximity to Gallaudet — a school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing — and nearby J.O. Wilson Elementary School.

“We needed it,” said Pauline Robinson, 80, a 30-year resident of the 1000 block of Eighth Street NE. “There was always accidents. They’d always fly up and down [Florida Avenue].”

Mr. Morison said, “The highest speed we’ve recorded to date in those first 12 days was 88 miles per hour, and remember that’s a 25 miles per hour zone adjacent to Gallaudet University with its sizable population of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.”

Miss Robinson, who lives with her daughter and 5-year-old grandson, said she hasn’t noticed any difference since the camera was installed. “They still [speed excessively].”

Asked if the many children walking from Wilson Elementary School influence motorists to slow down, Miss Robinson said the speeding drivers “don’t care.”

Her neighbor, John White, 45, agreed that action has needed to be taken in the area for a long time.

“I’m glad they did it,” said Mr. White, a warehouse worker who has lived in the neighborhood for 21/2 years. “All the time [before the camera’s implementation], I’d be waking up at nights to accidents.”

He said he has noticed a change in driving behavior. “There has been a big difference. They have been slowing down since [the camera] has been there.”

Rodney Stewart, 17, of 600 block of Orleans Place said he already has witnessed the camera capture speeding motorists on several occasions.

“I’ve seen it flash a few times while I was waiting for the bus,” said Rodney, who attends Friendship-Edison Collegiate Academy. “I think [the camera] is a good thing. It’s a lot of kids that play out there, and a lot of deaf kids.”

Since the District implemented red-light cameras in 1999 and speeding cameras in 2001, the automated traffic-enforcement program has generated more than $70 million in fines.

Fines from the red-light cameras — posted at 39 intersections throughout the city — have generated more than $25.3 million since they were set up in August 1999. Fines from the speeding or photo-radar cameras total more than $45 million since August 2001 when they were installed.

According to police statistics, about 6.3 percent of the more than 1 million vehicles monitored by photo-radar cameras last month were speeding, compared with 25.5 percent when the city began issuing citations based on photo-radar in 2001. The red-light cameras are issuing about 24,300 fewer citations a month than they did when they were first installed in 1999, a 64 percent drop-off.

“Experience tells us that people need to get tickets,” Mr. Morison said. “The warnings [are] important, and we’re trying to get the word out that the camera’s there, but I think it’s once people start receiving tickets that really begins to change their behavior.”

Mr. Morison said the influence of the camera on motorists cannot yet be determined, but he anticipates it will be positive.

“Part of the reason for having the warning period is to give us a baseline for how bad the speeding is along Florida Avenue. We know it’s pretty bad, but this will give us good statistical information because the camera unit does detect the speed of every vehicle that’s driving.”

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