NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

D.C. Hails Traffic Camera Successes

May 6, 2002

Officials in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland are reporting stunning successes in their experiment with traffic cameras to identify speeding motorists and red-light runners, and fine them. Similar experiments have been tried in other jurisdictions across the U.S. with less dramatic results, experts say.

  • So far, the program has resulted in nearly $43 million in fines and is now collecting more than $69,000 a day from motorists.
  • Driver in the suburbs have gotten 61 percent of the speeding citations and 67 percent of the red-light citations.
  • Experts say the citations are a safer method of catching violators than police chases -- and have substantially deterred would-be speeders.
  • The fine is $75 for red-light runners and $30 to $200 for speeders -- depending on how fast they were going.

The red-light cameras appear to have saved lives in the city -- where a total of 17 people were killed in red-light running accidents in 1997 and 1998, compared with five in 2000 and 2001.

Officials say it is too soon to assess the impact of speed cameras in the city -- where a total of 63 people died in speed-related crashes in 2000 and 2001.

Despite its apparent success, however, the program is not without its critics, who complain the cameras are an invasion of privacy, do not always work properly and are being used to enhance the city's treasury, not to deter reckless motorists.

Source: Arthur Santana, "A Flash Point on D.C. Roads," Washington Post, May 5, 2002.


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