Montgomery County’s speed cameras are netting even more cash than expected this year -- not through violations but through additional fines. Drivers who do not pay the $40 ticket within the allotted 30 days are hit with a $25 late fee.
Violators who skip the late fee risk a flag on their vehicle registrations. To release the flag, drivers have to pay $50 to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. The county gets a $20 cut from that fee.
County budget-minders expect to collect $1.1 million in late fees this fiscal year, far more than the $309,000 they originally anticipated, according to The Washington Examiner. Add more than $270,000 for the flag fee, and that brings the county’s total take well above $1.3 million. Just for late fees.
County Public Information Officer Esther Bowring pointed out that speed cameras are in place to slow people down.
“It’s not the county’s intent to collect late fees or speed camera fines. Our intent is to get people to slow down and obey the law,” Bowring told NBCWashington.com.
Under state law, traffic cam receipts can only be used for initiatives that involve traffic safety or other forms of public safety.
But the windfall begs the question why drivers are not paying their tickets on time. AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend theorized it’s because the county’s $40 fine is low, compared to other jurisdictions around the country that charge $400 and up for speed camera tickets.
"It's not because of the economy, it's not because of a wanton disregard for the ticket," Townsend told the Examiner. He said it may simply be that many drivers do not place a high premium on paying the ticket.
Whether one agrees with speed-camera-as-safety-device proponents or speed-camera-as-cash-cow critics, the bottom line is the same: The failure to act on a speed cam ticket can quickly parlay a $40 fee into a $115 headache.