Drivers in Maryland are far more likely to get multiple speed camera tickets than drivers caught speeding in the District.
For years drivers in our area and lobbyists for the auto industry have complained the District’s high speed camera fines are simply a revenue tool and not an effective way to deter speeding, but records obtained by News4 show the District has a much lower rate of repeat offenders being caught by speed cameras than in Maryland where the fines are much lower.
“The results do appear to be quite striking,” said David Marker, senior statistician with the American Statistical Association, which reviewed the data obtained by News4.
“In the Maryland suburbs you’re about twice as likely to get multiple tickets,” Marker said. “By the time you get up to five or 10 tickets, your 20 times more likely to get multiple tickets in the Maryland suburbs than in D.C.”
Last year the percentage of cars issued more than one speed camera ticket in Montgomery County was five times the rate of repeat offenders in the District. In fiscal year 2012, more than 15 percent of the cars issued speed camera tickets were caught more than once, compared to the District, where the percentage of cars getting more than one ticket is just more than 3 percent.
The same is true in Prince George’s County, where the percentage of cars issued more than 5 speed camera tickets in FY 2012 was more than twice the rate in the District.
“In Prince George’s County its more extreme, almost everybody who gets more than one ticket also gets more than five,” Marker said.
The District issued 1,018,959 speed camera tickets in FY 2012 and reports 35,192 cars were issued more than one ticket. Montgomery County issued 330,303 tickets in that same time period and reports 50,965 drivers were caught more than once. Prince George’s County had a lower rate of repeat offenders getting more than one ticket than both Montgomery County and D.C., but the percentage jumps when you look at the number of cars being issued five or more tickets. The District had 781 cars issued five or more citations while Prince George’s had 8,101. Montgomery County had 3,240.
That trend holds true with the more chronic repeat offenders. The District had just 56 cars that were ticketed more than 10 times in 2012 while Montgomery County had 274 and Prince George’s had 859. Only two cars were ticketed more than 20 times in the District, while Montgomery County had 17 and Prince George’s had 80.
The District issues far more speed camera fines than Montgomery and Prince George’s counties combined, and the fines in the District are much higher. Maryland law caps speed camera fines at $40 regardless of how fast a car is caught speeding, and those fines cannot double if the fine isn’t paid on time. The District fines up to $300 depending on how fast the car is going and those fines double if not paid in 30 days. District officials have debated the merits of the high fines, last year Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh formed a task force to look at reducing the fines and increasing the speed limits in some areas. Mayor Vincent Gray later made changes to the fine structure by executive order raising the highest fine to $300.
“This data bolsters the case that there’s a connection between the higher fines and deterrents,” said Greater Greater Washington Editor David Alpert, who was part of the task force. “That suggests that we should be very cautious about lowering in a way that might lead people to continue to speed.”
But another member of that task force says the rate of repeat offender has little to do with the difference in fines and more to do with people’s driving patterns.
“The reason you have this disparity is because the speed cameras you have in Maryland are located in neighborhoods where the schools are located where the speeders live. The offender is most likely a person who lives in the neighborhood drives those same streets every day and is repeating the same offense,” said John Townsend of AAA.
As for the people who enforce the speed camera fines, they’re divided on whether higher fines are a greater deterrent. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the higher fines do slow people down. “It makes them think twice when they cross that line,” she said of fines being higher on the D.C. side of the border. Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw said Maryland’s lower fines are working to slow people down and reduce traffic deaths. “The $40 is significant for us, and its showing a tremendous decrease in those fatalities.”
But Magaw’s boss, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, has indicated he’s open to higher speed camera fines, telling the Washington Times, “Go to D.C. and get a ticket and see how many times you speed.”
In a statement to News4 Baker’s spokesperson, Scott L. Peterson, said, “County Executive Baker believes that speeding and red light cameras can help significantly reduce speeding and other vehicle related public safety issues. The data compiled by News4 appears to support his contention. Furthermore, the county executive believes that the state of Maryland should reconsider the structure and implementation regarding traffic cameras in the future, because it could have a positive impact on public safety."
As for the all-time highest number of tickets in one year, the District reports one privately owned car that received 22 speed camera tickets, in Montgomery County the top offender racked up 63 tickets and Prince George’s County had the highest repeat offender with 66 speed camera tickets in a single year. News4 will have more details on those chronic offenders tomorrow.
D.C. and Montgomery County police departments provided the data upon request. Prince George’s County would only release the numbers after a request was filed using the Freedom of Information Act.
Follow Mark Segraves on Twitter at @SegravesNBC4