The Washington Post

Md.’s mobile speed cameras raking in millions from work zones

When Maryland officials set out to punish drivers who speed through work zones, they warned that they were serious about it, and now there are numbers to prove that.

A mobile-unit speed camera in the Capital Beltway work zone in Silver Spring generated 21,100 tickets, valued at $840,000, in its first three months of operation, according to data released Monday by the AAA.

Tickets in the Interstate 495 work zone between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue were among the total of 399,603, valued at $16 million, issued for work-zone speeding violations statewide between January and October, the AAA said.

Although work-zone accidents in which motorists and, occasionally, construction workers die have declined in the past five years, they remain a concern for highway officials. In 2009, there were 667 fatalities, a decrease from 720 the previous year and from 1,058 in 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Six of the 2009 deaths were in Maryland.

Since Maryland began its intensive speed-camera enforcement program in work zones two years ago, 767,697 of the $40 tickets have been mailed, with fines totaling $30.7 million.

“Maryland’s work-zone speed cameras are having the desired effects: decreasing the number of speeders in highway construction zones in the region and across the state, and reducing the number and the severity of crashes in the work zones,” said John B. Townsend II, an AAA spokesman.

Townsend said that although some drivers have been upset with or opposed the enforcement, the work-zone program hasn’t generated the same level of frustration and public resistance as other photo-enforcement efforts.

The complaints about the citations and the concerns about the ticketing procedures have been few, he said.

“That is as it should be,” Townsend said. “Motorists tend to believe this [work-zone program] is designed to improve safety and save lives.”

Data collected by the State Highway Administration indicate that drivers are slowing, on average, by 5 mph in work zones. State police report a 65 percent drop in the number of drivers breaking the speed limit by 10 mph or more in those zones. Drivers who exceed the limit by 12 mph or more get tickets.

In addition to the Beltway enforcement, work-zone cameras on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway generated 50,275 tickets between January and July with a value of more than $2 million, the AAA said. In July, an angry driver attacked a speed-enforcement vehicle near that highway’s exit for Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.

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