Maryland jurisdictions issued more than 1.5 million tickets for speed-camera violations last fiscal year, and most of those tickets went to motorists in the Washington suburbs, according to a new state report, building on the region’s reputation as a “speed trap” for drivers.
The number of tickets — which generated $62.2 million in revenue — remained essentially unchanged from the previous year, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, which analyzed the figures published by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Three out of four citations (76 percent) were issued in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The Montgomery County Police Department, which generates the most money from speed cameras in the state, raked in more than $20 million in fines in fiscal 2017 — a drop of about $1 million, compared with the previous year, state data shows. Prince George’s police generated $9.1 million in fines, down by more than $1.4 million.
Drivers in the two counties bordering the District also faced automated fines from speed cameras from about 20 municipal police departments, including College Park and Hyattsville in Prince George’s and Chevy Chase and Takoma Park in Montgomery. Combined, the smaller jurisdictions generated nearly one-third of the tickets, or $18 million in fines.
“Motorists are almost three times more likely to receive speed-camera tickets while driving through localities large and small in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties than in any other locations in the entire state,” AAA spokesman John B. Townsend II said. “It is so shocking that so many drivers have a wanton disregard for safety.”
In Maryland, being caught by a camera results in a $40 ticket. By comparison, fines in the District range from $50 to $300, depending on speed. Virginia does not allow speed cameras.
The District’s automated enforcement remains by far the most prolific in the region. In 2016, the District issued 994,163 speed-camera tickets and collected $99.1 million in revenue.
The cameras have caused controversy in the Washington region and many cities around the country. In Maryland, several jurisdictions in recent years have suspended their programs after finding glitches in the technology. Baltimore City resurrected its speed cameras last year, three years after suspending the program because of an investigation about erroneous ticketing.
At least 143 communities have speed-camera programs and 422 have red-light cameras across the United States, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Maryland and the District are known as national leaders in the use of automated speed enforcement.
Under Maryland law, speed cameras can be used within a half-mile of a school, and the hours of enforcement are limited to between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Drivers must be going at least 12 miles per hour over the posted speed limit before they are fined, and the $40 ticket can be sent out only after the infractions have been reviewed by a sworn police officer.
As more drivers have become aware of the cameras, the number of camera-generated tickets issued has declined in many communities across the state. Supporters and law enforcement officials say the shift validates the effectiveness of automated enforcement programs. Law enforcement officials credit the cameras with helping deter speeding that was pervasive before installation in areas where children are present.
“We hope that more and more drivers get the message. Speeding around schoolchildren is not only reckless and dangerous. It is intolerable,” Townsend said. “We have seen a bit of a drop in tickets, and we hope it continues to drop. But it is a very lucrative program.”
Maryland’s speed enforcement program launched just over a decade ago in Montgomery County. The county also has cameras in residential communities, and those are said to be operational around the clock. The Maryland State Highway Administration can also use speed cameras in work zones.