The District’s automated enforcement program remains the most prolific in the region. The city issued 1,079,878 speed-camera tickets, compared with 509,542 by Montgomery County police and 227,579 by Prince George’s County police. An additional 451,224 tickets were issued by 20 local agencies within Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Virginia does not allow speed cameras.
The cameras have been controversial in the Washington region and in communities nationwide. In Maryland, several jurisdictions in recent years have suspended their programs after finding glitches in the technology. Baltimore resurrected its speed cameras last year, three years after suspending the program because of an investigation about erroneous ticketing.
Across the United States, at least 143 communities have speed-camera programs and 422 have red-light cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Maryland and the District are known as national leaders in the use of automated speed enforcement.
In Maryland, jurisdictions issued more than 1.5 million tickets for speed-camera violations in fiscal 2017, and most of those tickets went to motorists in the Washington suburbs, according to a state report issued this year.
The Maryland tickets generated $62.2 million in revenue, essentially unchanged from the previous year, according to the figures published by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. More than 3 out of 4 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 generated $9.1 million in fines, down by more than $1.4 million.
While speeding citations from automated enforcement are trending down in Maryland, the District’s program continues to set records. Through the end of February, the city had issued more than 400,000 speed-camera tickets, with seven more months left in fiscal 2018, which ends this month.
“Motorists are wondering if the dramatic increases in tickets and revenue totals are the result of the placement of speed cameras along roadways where the posted speed is so low as to engender violations or too low, in violation of established traffic-safety and traffic engineering tenets,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II said. “And if so, whether this constitutes a revenue-raising speed trap under the patina of traffic safety.”
The program has been controversial since its start, and this year a vandal broke 11 speed cameras throughout the city, most in Northeast Washington, police said. Surveillance video showed a man knocking over a speed camera in a large box, kicking the device, then ripping off a piece of it and throwing it across several traffic lanes.
Fines for speeding in the District start at $50 and can be as high as $300. Speed cameras issue tickets to motorists caught driving more than 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. As many as one-third of violators are caught going one mile per hour over the threshold speed, according to the AAA analysis. Speed cameras are found in more than 300 locations across the region and are active 24 hours a day. The District also has separate cameras to monitor red lights at many intersections.
In Maryland, state law allows speed cameras 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. Speed cameras are also deployed in state highway work zones.
New technology is making the devices more difficult to spot. The District has been deploying a new generation of cameras equipped with “three-dimensional tracking radar” that are smaller and installed high on poles.
Since fiscal 2007, the city has issued 6.8 million tickets, generating $647 million in revenue, city data shows.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said tickets are sent out to driver going a mile over the posted speed limit. This version has been corrected.