- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rockville next month will become the first Maryland jurisdiction to use photo radar to catch speeders.

A camera-equipped vehicle that will monitor 15 spots is part of a larger program in Montgomery County that in March will include six other camera-equipped vehicles moving throughout the county.

“We are confident that in a short time after we start using them, these cameras will show how they are making a difference in slowing speeders,” Rockville Mayor Larry Giammo said.

The program follows the General Assembly’s approval last year of speed-camera bills.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, twice vetoed the bills. However, the Democrat-controlled state House and Senate overrode the second veto in January 2006.

Mr. Giammo said other city officials have long clamored for state permission to implement cameras. Three stationary cameras also will be added soon to the Rockville system. The first camera should be in place in Rockville by mid-March, city officials said.

Speeders will receive warning notices in the mail for the first 30 days of the program, then authorities will issue tickets with $40 fines.

The program follows a successful test run last summer in Chevy Chase.

The Chevy Chase Village Police Department installed a stationary speed camera along a short stretch of Connecticut Avenue, north of the Chevy Chase Circle.

Police Chief Roy Gordon said Friday that the department did not keep records on how many motorists were photographed during the test run, but the results were favorable and the town will soon implement a program similar to the one in Rockville.

He said the camera was put in that area because it is notorious for speeders.

Gaithersburg officials also are completing plans to start their program soon.

County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the cameras will “combat and correct the aggressive driving behavior of those who choose to speed.”

“The safety of our citizens is always a top priority,” he said. “Our goal is to save lives, and speed cameras will give us another resource that will complement our existing enforcement measures.”

County officials said a recent, countywide survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found 59 percent of those polled favored the cameras.

In 2005, 214 persons — 16 in Montgomery County — were killed in speeding-related crashes in Maryland, authorities said.

The use of speed cameras in the state has long been an issue of contention.

The new Maryland law allows jurisdictions to use them in residential areas and school zones with speed limits of or less than 35 mph.

Maryland already allows red-light cameras, which are used throughout the state, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The District, which was the first major jurisdiction on the East Coast to use photo-radar enforcement, has collected more than $125 million in fines since starting the program in 2001. Last year, the speed cameras generated $30.9 million, the highest annual total in the program’s history.

The automated-enforcement program in the District has divided city officials and residents. Many have praised the program, but critics contend that decisions regarding camera placement are influenced by revenue.

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.

Montgomery County Police spokesman Lt. Eric Burnett said the $40 fine for violators is a flat rate countywide. Part of the revenue generated within each municipality will go to a general county fund, he said.

ACS State and Local Solutions Inc., the same vendor used by the District for automated enforcement, will operate the county’s program.

John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, warned Montgomery County officials to be aware of the District’s program, which he said has the stigma of being influenced by revenue.

“Montgomery has to emulate what the District has done right and avoid doing what’s been done wrong,” he said.

Mr. Townsend advised county officials to keep the cameras in the public’s favor. Residents often support the cameras in theory, but change their minds once fines are issued, he said.

“They embrace the program in the abstract, on an intellectual level,” Mr. Townsend said. “But the people are so frustrated with traffic in the region and being stuck [in gridlock] that they speed through residential neighborhoods so they won’t be late for work or miss appointments.”


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