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Residents, Police Clash at Hearing On Speed Cameras

Prince George’s County plans to roll out 100 speed cameras but residents question the devices' accuracy.

Residents and business owners clashed with police officials from agencies throughout Prince George’s County on Tuesday during a public hearing over a plan to roll out 100 speed cameras in jurisdictions throughout the county.

The county council approved legislation that would allow for the speed cameras in November 2009 but did not act on it until County Executive Rushern L. Baker (D) issued a letter encouraging members to move forward with the plan.

Legislation for the cameras required the council to have a public hearing first and to establish a 21-member citizens advisory committee, composed mostly of residents, to decide where the cameras would be planned. 

But during Tuesday’s public hearing in Upper Marlboro, residents and business owners demanded that the council put the brakes on rolling out cameras without testing the equipment for accuracy. The cameras will be placed at locations over the next year.

William Foreman owns an auto parts store in Oxon Hill and told the council that his drivers received more than five tickets while driving along Indian Head Highway/Route 210, which has a speed camera for the town of Forest Heights. He said the cameras were inaccurately recording speeds for vehicles, a claim he was successfully able to defend in court for five of his tickets with the use of photos.

“I am not opposed to speed cameras,” he said. “I am opposed to speed cameras that wrongly accuse people of speeding.”

Richard Ladieu of Lanham drives a truck for the University of Maryland College Park and was able to get tickets he received along Paint Branch Parkway thrown out in court.

“They’re not accurate. It’s nothing but extortion .… You guys are implementing a law that’s unconstitutional,” he said before storming out of the hearing room.

Still, law enforcement officials from Hyattsville, College Park, Forest Heights and Seat Pleasant praised the cameras for significantly reducing collisions and getting drivers to slow down near school zones.

Prince George's Police Maj. Robert Liberati said the speed cameras are operated by an outside contractor but are checked frequently by police.  He called Foreman and Ladieu’s evidence “irrelevant” because photos cannot accurately record a vehicle’s speed.

Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington asked how police can justify cases being thrown out in court if the equipment is accurate.

Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel asked why only vendors maintain the cameras if there are disputes over accuracy.

“You have the fox watching the hen house," she said. "That makes no sense.”

Officers said the court systems have not been properly educated on speed camera technology, which allows for probable doubt when tickets are being disputed. Officer John O’Connor of Seat Pleasant Police said he frequently checks the accuracy of speed cameras and they have reduced fatalities and lightened workloads for officers.

“The cameras have significantly reduced [speeding],” he said.  “The speed cameras work. They’re outstanding.”

Some residents also welcome the cameras as a deterrent to cars speeding along roads that were not built to handle a large traffic flow.

George Kanellos of Upper Marlboro told the council that he’s seen an increase of accidents near his residence along South Osborne Road. He has repeatedly asked the county to install speed bumps, or even a street mirror that would allow him to exit his driveway safely.

“Naturally, what started as a county road has become a major thoroughfare,” he said. “It’s a shame when you can’t get out of your own driveway.”

Stephen July 14, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Speed Scameras are a cash scam. Never mind the fact that 1/2 of the locations proposed are NEW ones. THIS STINKS OF nothing more than a revenue scam. The reality is that it doesn't stop dangerous drivers for it DOESN'T pull them over. What speed scameras do is send bills out. Most for techincal fouls. And though they might be using 12 mph over today, THEY WILL TRIGGER SPEEDS. In places like the UK they are down to 3 mph trigger speeds. http://www.banthecams.org/201106011282/UK-Are-Speed-Awareness-Courses-becoming-just-another-scam-UK-issuing-3-mph-speeding-tickets.html Tell you what, LET YOUR RESIDENTS VOTE! COME ON, what are you afriad of! Fight the sCAM! Ban the CAMS! www.motorists.org www.banthecams.org www.camerafraud.com www.bhspi.org and check out MD http://stopbigbrothermd.org
Joe July 14, 2011 at 04:08 PM
The use of speed cameras to issue tickets isn't a scam (there is no effort being made to cheat/swindle). Monetary fines are issued as a deterrent to repeated law-breaking, regardless of whether you are pulled over at that moment, or receive a ticket in the mail a few days later. What other deterrent to law-breaking would be better? Regardless of whether we believe the law is there for our safety or just to make money, we live in this country and have the obligation to abide by its laws. Speed limit means maximum speed allowed (not minimum acceptable speed) - we should all feel lucky if there is even a 3-mph-excess allowed before a ticket is issued (if that is, indeed, the case), because legally we're not allowed to go over the limit at any point, for any reason - intentional or not. I drive past three cameras twice a day (driving at, not below, the speed limit - according to my speedometer), and I've never been ticketed. Although this doesn't mean that some other cameras (or others' speedometers) aren't accurately calibrated, it does suggest that there is a simple, pro-active approach we all can use to avoid being ticketed - just don't speed! (it is elegantly simple, isn't it?) Imagine a College Park where nobody sped. Then there would be no need for speed cameras, and they'd all go away - and you'd win. That'd show 'em! I do agree that residents should vote: go vote to raise speed limits if you think they're set too low. Then the law will be on your side.
Paul July 14, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Definitely, it is money hungry governments running Safety Mafia scam. First they lower the speed limit from 40 to 30 MPH and then they get you. I challenge the Ciity and county to donate all the money they make from this scam if they are really worried about the safety. Here is the Speed camera company splitting the profits. You should go see traffic courts where innocent young folks who cant afford car gas, being hammered by extra costs. This thing is making us break the law when the spped law is wrong. Raise the speed limits. We should have the statewide referendum to ban all such spped cameras.
qt3 July 14, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Joe - when will you say the gov has gone too far to enforce the laws? Should they wire tap all phones to make sure you aren't doing anything illegal? Should there be cameras on every corner to make sure we catch pickpocketers? Should we not just install speed regulators in every car that sends a text message to the police every time you go above the speed limit? Get the gov the hell out of our lives. Enough is enough. Going down the path of "the law is helpful cause it cuts down on ..." will only curtail our freedoms more and more.
James C. Walker July 14, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Wherever speed cameras issue very many tickets, you can be sure the posted speed limit is NOT set to maximize safety at the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions. This is the method known for 70+ years to produce the smoothest traffic flow and the fewest accidents. Speed cameras placed on roads with these speed limits will NOT record enough violations to even pay their own basic costs, let alone make any profits. Speed cameras are only viable where the engineering of the posted speed limits is deliberately done improperly at the cost of lower safety. The science is on our website. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI (and a frequent visitor to your area to see family)
Joe July 15, 2011 at 01:01 AM
"Speed cameras are only viable where the engineering of the posted speed limits is deliberately done improperly at the cost of lower safety." Are you claiming that the posted speed limits are deliberately done improperly to make money? If so, then you'd have to prove at least that the speed limits were changed (lowered) prior to the speed cameras going in. Since the speed limits haven't been changed, I fail to see the viability of your logic. Also, how do lower-than-optimal speed limits come at the cost of safety? I still don't understand why speed cameras are a big issue: driving is a privilege, not a right. As residents of the US, we are obliged to follow the established laws. If you don't like driving past speed cameras, take a different route. If you don't like getting speeding tickets, just don't speed. Better that the affected individuals (speeders) take these measures than to enact a law change (i.e. raising speed limits) that affects everybody's safety.
Danny July 15, 2011 at 01:26 AM
"driving is a privilege, not a right" -- that one has always puzzled me. it's a prvilege for me to drive the car i bought with my money on a road that was constructed using taxes i paid to a government whose officials i elected to make decisions on my behalf? what about walking on a sidewalk -- is that also a privilege? i certainly don't have the right to speed or break any other laws, but must that also mean that i don't have the right to drive? that seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Ron Alford July 15, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Mostly it means they can remove or modify your legal ability to drive without going through a jury of your peers.
James C. Walker July 16, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Thanks for the thoughtful reply Joe. No, they do not usually lower a posted limit to install a camera, they just find places where the posted limit is already artificially low and then the profitability is assured. Engineers and police officers have known for many decades that the posted limit has almost no effect on the upper end of the travel speed range. You can raise or lower speed limits by 15 mph and the MAXIMUM change you get in the 85th percentile speed is usually 3 mph, with the average change at 1 mph or less. Limits set at the 85th percentile speed tend to produce the smoothest traffic flow with the least speed variance, thus the fewest conflicts between vehicles. Typical city speed limits are set at more like the 30th percentile speed of free flowing traffic so that about 70% of all drivers under good conditions are arbitrarily defined as violators/criminals. This has been known since the late 1930s. Please read the science and history on our website. Please particularly read the Michigan State Police powerpoint presentation "Establishing Safe and Realistic Speed Limits, it is the last item on this page: www.motorists.org/speed-limits/articles I testify for the NMA pretty frequently in Lansing and when the State Police and I testify on the same bill, our comments are virtually identical, and based on the known sciences of traffic safety. James C. Walker, NMA
Ron Alford July 16, 2011 at 02:22 AM
City speed limits are 25mph for a reason. Much faster than that, and all pedestrian-vehicle collisions become fatalities: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/hs809012.html The right solution, of course, is engineering. But if that's too expensive, aren't speed cameras an allowable solution?
Danny July 16, 2011 at 12:24 PM
@James -- not to mention the "gotcha" cameras at the bottom of hills. they catch you technically speeding in the particular 500-year zone of the camera, even if you weren't speeding along the previous stretch of the road. it leads to artificial braking on the downhill slope, then excessive acceleration on the next upward slope. wasted gas, more fender-benders and near-misses. best example is the camera on northbound new hampshire avenue in takoma park (between 410 and sligo creek pkwy).
Paul July 16, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Most speed cameras are downhill. Only supporters for this are govt. guys as it gives them $$. How come rte 1 northbound is 40 mph near Cherry hill Rd intersection?
Joe July 17, 2011 at 01:25 AM
@James: thanks for your response - which makes sense to me. @Danny & @Paul: your arguments seem to be more about the speed limit, then, not so much about the cameras, which are just enforcing the speed limits. It sounds like you'd like free-for-all speeds on any downhill? Just let your car coast down at whatever speed? That's clearly the most fuel-efficient approach to setting speed limits. I'm also unsure whether "most speed cameras are downhill." Of the four I drive past daily, only one is on a hill, and that one is at the top of the hill (it used to be halfway down, but was later moved to the top of the hill, which counters your point). @Paul: I, too, wonder about why Rt 1 goes from 35 to 40 mph between University Blvd and the beltway (mostly I wonder about that when I'm behind somebody who didn't notice the increase in limit ;) Is it just a historical artifact, or is there some property of that point on Rt 1 that allows the limit to be increased according to whatever codes dictate speed limits?
Danny July 17, 2011 at 09:21 PM
@Joe -- no, my beef is with the cameras. the way a normal person drives is not at a steady rate of speed on every block. you push the gas as you go uphill, and you coast downhill. the only time people are unable to do this is when they know there's a camera or other artificial speed trap on the way down. in those cases, you cannot use the natural momentum from the hill to your advantage, and you have to accelerate hard on the next hill. NH ave in takoma park is, again, the perfect example, as there's a large uphill stretch after sligo creek. it's awkward, it's wasteful of gas, it's dangerous (since some know about the camera while others don't), and it's petty. why couldn't the camera be after sligo creek on the uphill stretch? instead, it's right in the valley for both northbound and southbound drivers. other pettiness: CP's eastbound camera on metzerott in the spot where the limit is reduced from 40 to 30 mph, in a location with no sidewalks and no pedestrian traffic. why not closer to 193, where there are sidewalks, pedestrians, churches, and student housing? not even to mention the route 1 cameras south of hyattsville... the speed limit changes so many times between the DC line and route 1 that it's ridiculous to expect drivers to adjust to each zone... and of course the camera is in the zone with the lowest speed limit.
Joe July 17, 2011 at 09:55 PM
@Danny: it sounds like you're an advocate of breaking the law (coasting downhill above the speed limit), and also against enforcing the law (not wanting speed cameras to catch you doing so)? The point of a speed limit is that you not break it, regardless of whether you're driving downhill like (your definition of) a "normal person." What you're describing still sounds like the root issue is the speed limit, not the camera enforcement. The core issue that you seem to be describing still sounds to me like you think the speed limits are set in a way that isn't most fuel efficient. If the speed limits were higher on downhill stretches of road to allow for this, and there was camera enforcement, then would you still have an issue? You could speed down a hill and let your momentum carry you up the next hill with impunity.
Jon Gulbuny July 17, 2011 at 11:53 PM
Is there ever going to be a time in the future when there are no more laws? Or does it just continue on forever? I realize that they get paid to write laws. But as citizens we should ake a 3 or 4 year break on new laws.
Danny July 18, 2011 at 11:39 AM
i'm an advocate of common sense and good, accountable government. this is how people have operated motor vehicles for a century, and the principle applies to bicyclists, too. now that speed camera technology has been developed, local governments have shortsightedly exploited the fundamental laws of physics to generate instant revenue, mostly from non-locals who don't know any better. i, personally, think that's a shame and not what i should expect from my elected officials. if coasting down a hill is the only law i break, then i consider myself a good citizen. if everyone else could say the same thing, perhaps we'd be better off as a society. if only there were camera technology to automatically fine litterers, those who spit or urinate on the sidewalk, those who blast their car radios with the windows down, those who soup up their cars in a loud and disruptive manner, those who sell things roadside without a license, those who smoke too close to building entrances, those who drive with non-working brake lights, those who eat and drink on the metro, etc. each of these infractions is more harmful to civil society, in my humble opinion, than coasting down a hill on a 6-lane major commuter route. and sure, if the cameras were set at a higher limit on NH avenue at the bottom of the hill, i'd be happier. but why not just position the cameras on a flat stretch? what's the value added to school-zone pedestrian safety of putting the cameras at the bottom of a hill?
J.W. Hampton July 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM
Hey L.H., Do you so vehementy decry the unfairness of a parking ticket as they too are issued to the OWNER of the heicle and not necessarily the individual who parked the car in violation. Contrary to your rant, speed cameras are not unconstitutional at any level. Liek a parking ticket, the owner of the vehcile determined to be in violation is notified of the violation; they are then given the opportunity to dispute the ticket in court (due process); and if they were not the person behind the wheel at the time the violation was committed, they can provide the court with the true violators name, and the citation will be re-issued to that person. Bottom line is, you are in total control. Don't speed (even though you're allowed 12 miles over the limit) and you won't receive a ticket.

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