Speed Cameras: Dollars, Cents, Citations
The county has netted nearly $28,000 for traffic safety projects, and police said that drivers are slowing down.
The Howard County Police Department is “exploring” an increase in its speed camera program by adding two portable speed cameras in areas too small to fit the two vans currently in use in school zones.
In its one-year report, which is required to be submitted to the County Council, the police department went over dollars and cents and numbers of citations issued during the 5,840 hours on the roads in the first year of the program, which began issuing citations in November 2011.
According to the report, before speed camera enforcement began, the department conducted a five-year review of collisions that occurred in school zones. Before the cameras were installed, the county averaged 166 collisions per year over the five years studied, according to the review. In 2012, that average was 136 collisions.
The number of collisions in a school zone for any particular year was not immediately available.
Before implementing its program, the police department had conducted a year-long survey of speeds in school zones, beginning in 2009 and another was done during the current school year. Compared to the speeds recorded in 2009, according to the report, average observed speeds of about 85 percent of drivers in about 85 of the 131 school zones surveyed were down by as much as 11 mph.
Fewer citations have been issued than police had expected based on that 2009 survey. “We expect that this occurred because the vans are visible and an obvious deterrent to all who drive by.”
Of the nearly 26,000 citations issued, 39 recipients have fought them in court, according to the report. Three have been found not guilty.
“None of these findings,” the report says of the not guilty findings, “involved questions or concerns about the validity of the equipment or the program.” Police rejected 705 citations because they did not meet photo quality criteria.
About $894,000 in citation fees has been collected as of Dec. 21.
As of that date, the program has netted $27,849 with the majority of the balance going vendor bills, personnel costs and operating fees. That money, and “all fines collected over program costs” at the end of FY2013, will be dedicated for traffic safety projects and enhancements.
The fastest speed observed by a speed camera in a school zone has been 82 mph in a 40 mph zone, on Rogers Avenue near Hollifield Station Elementary School. That vehicle was cited and the citation was paid.
Howard County's speed camera program could "serve as a model for other jurisdictions," the report concludes, but it is not without its drawbacks.
"The use of this enforcement tool is limited by the size of the enforcement platform -- our two vans," the police department report reads. "While we use a small-footprint vehicle, there are several areas where even that small vehicle is too large."
The recommendation is to add two portable computing units that could be rotated among concrete pads installed in areas of enforcement.
"The Howard County code authorizes the use of eight systems," the report reads, "and we are exploring increasing our system strength by adding two portable computer units, or PCUs."
A copy of the report is attached to this article.
This article has been edited to indicate the program has netted $27,849.