Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Speed Cameras Save Lives? No. Budgets? Yes!

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is in a no-win situation these days. The county's finances are in shambles, just like virtually every other county in the U.S., and Leggett has to find a way to balance the budget. He's cutting about 400 jobs, local bus routes, library hours and various other programs, all of which are prone to gripes from various factions in Montgomery.

He's proposing to impose an ambulance fee, a move that has already been declared "dead on arrival" by the paid fire personnel who would be charged with imposing it (not that they should have any say at all in the matter). And then there's this one-sentence item from today's Washington Post:

Drivers on Montgomery's streets would see the number of stationary speed cameras increase to 60 under Leggett's plan. With the additional cameras, the program is projected to raise $15.7 million for the budget year that begins July 1.

Wait a minute. I thought speed cameras were regarded primarily as a "safety" measure, not a revenue -generator. So why would the County Executive order up more of them in order to add to the bottom line? I'll tell you why... Because speed cameras are nothing BUT a revenue-generator - and a decreasingly effective one at that, I'd bet!

I regularly pass by two sets of county speed cameras. The ones on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, and the one on Georgia Avenue in Olney. I was nabbed a couple of times in Chevy Chase when the cameras were new, but have not been caught since then, and I've never been caught in Olney.

I can tell you that those two blocks are two of the safest blocks in America, because everyone slows down to the speed limit as they pass by the cameras. Of course, they are speeding right up to the boxes, and they resume their speeding a block later, but by God, those blocks where the cameras are actually located? SAFE!

I would bet that after initial spikes in revenue, those areas are starting to see a drop-off in the number of tickets they generate, because regular commuters are wise to them... therefore, the need for more cameras throughout the county.

This is all a sham. I think I'd feel better about the cameras if the county would just call them what they are... a deliberate money-making tax on leadfoot drivers. You can't convince me that speed cameras are making our streets safer when many, if not most, of these cameras are located on level-ground straightaways in areas where the speed limit is already artificially set too low.

I'd have less of a problem if the speed limits were set at more reasonable speeds. But then the revenue levels would drop.

We can't have THAT now, can we?

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