NMA Reboot: How to Rig the Speed Camera Game

This weekly post features recent news stories that highlight and update themes previously covered throughout NMA E-Newsletters and Alerts.

Editor’s Note: We all know that ticket camera companies and their public official partners have to rig the game to make money. Such is the case with Chicago’s extensive speed camera network where the placement of some cameras seems to have more to do with generating ticket revenue than with public safety. For example, one of the most profitable cameras in the city is located on a busy street, but the park it’s intended to protect is on an entirely different one-way, residential street separated from the camera by railroad tracks. Still, the camera is within the 1/8 of a mile maximum distance of the park, as required by law. More flagrant examples can be found here. Other tricks include operating speed cameras in school zones even when school isn’t in session, as we described in this 2009 blog


School Is Never Out For Speed Cameras

A popular way for ticket camera manufacturers to “get their foot in door” and quiet opposition of speed cameras in a city is to mention that the cameras will be installed in school zones. After all, what politician wants to be seen as being against “improving” the safety of children?

What the ticket camera companies fail to mention is that they intend to use the school zone cameras to make it easier to push them through everywhere else later. They also don’t mention that many of these school zone speed cameras are in use 24/7, 365 days a year — even if school isn’t.

As NBCWashington.com points out, that’s what has been happening in Montgomery County, Maryland:

Some speed cameras in Montgomery County, Md., are snapping pictures and issuing tickets in school zones — even though classes have been out for more than a month. 

Every time a speed camera flashes, someone gets a $40 speeding ticket in the 25 mph school zone in front of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. 

Michele Rosen of Silver Spring received a traffic-camera ticket on a recent Saturday. She plans to appeal. […]

Rosen believes the reduced speed zone is not well marked. She questions the need for the lower speed limit when school is not in session. 

Apparently she wasn’t the only one who was upset with this scheme:

There has been some grumbling about “after hours” use of school zone cameras and some changes are about to happen. 

“The laws for speed cameras will change as of October 1,” said Lucille Baur, a spokesperson for Montgomery County Police. 

Well, at least they eventually did the right thing. But wait a minute, what’s this: 

Baur said the operational hours for speed cams in school zones will be reduced to Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The new hours will be put in place throughout the year, whether or not school is in session. 

I guess some people never learn.

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