- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

Montgomery County motorists will soon have an extra incentive to slow down — the county plans to put speed cameras in school zones and on residential streets before January.

“It’s all geared toward traffic safety, and the potential for success is extremely high,” said Capt. Thomas Didone, director of the Montgomery County Police Department’s special operations division. “We really believe the use of technology to get slower speeds will dramatically decrease crashes and improve the quality of life where it’s most critical.”

The speed-camera program was authorized through a bill sponsored by Delegate William A. Bronrott, Montgomery County Democrat.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has vetoed speed-camera bills twice. However, the Democratic-controlled state House and Senate overrode the second veto by 2-to-1 in January.

“The primary purpose of this program is about education and deterrence,” Mr. Bronrott said. “It’s time to give pedestrians a break, slow down and abide by the rules of the road.”

The cameras will be placed in school zones and neighborhood streets with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less. Officials said $40 tickets will be issued when motorists exceed the limit by 10 mph, but no points will go on their driving records.

Capt. Didone said the county will decide among four potential camera vendors and hopes to award a contract as early as next week.

Officials hope to deploy six camera-mounted vans by December to as many as 30 locations in the county. They also have requested money for six fixed cameras in problem areas.

The cameras will first issue warning citations, then real ones by the end of the year. A staff of 24 employees will manage the program, which Capt. Didone said will cost “a couple million” dollars to start.

Officials already have begun mounting laser equipment and placing tiny pads on street surfaces to measure speed data and help determine where cameras will be placed. Capt. Didone said some of the pads are now in Bethesda but will be moved throughout the county.

The program also will include municipal police departments from Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg and Rockville. Takoma Park also is considering using speed cameras, Capt. Didone said.

The Chevy Chase Village Police Department had a temporary program this summer that had cameras along a stretch of Connecticut Avenue.

Police Chief Roy A. Gordon said traffic studies show 47 percent of motorists exceed the 30 mph speed limit on Connecticut Avenue by at least 10 mph and that the town will participate in the county program once a vendor is selected.

“From what I hear, this is on the fast track, the county really wants to get this thing off the ground,” Chief Gordon said. “If and when a contract’s awarded, [Connecticut Avenue] is where we’re going to put our cameras.”

Twenty-one communities in 10 states — including Maryland — now use speed cameras, said John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA-Mid-Atlantic.

The District was among the first to use the cameras and has reported more than $117 million in fines collected since starting the program in 2001. Traffic fatalities in which speeding is the primary factor have declined from 38 in 2001 to 12 so far this year, according to Metropolitan Police Department statistics.

The District does not assess points for camera citations, but fines for speeding can be as much as $200. The money goes into the city’s general fund.

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