On my drive into D.C. every morning I pass through the bucolic town of Chevy Chase , Md.  Several months ago the town or more properly village decided to install speed cameras on both sides of Connecticut Ave. which is the main thoroughfare that passes through the village leading into D.C.  This was my first up close look at what effect speed cameras have on driving habits and my conclusion is that the whole idea needs to be rethought.

My reasoning is this.  Connecticut Ave.  is a very heavily traveled road, so much so that during the morning and evening rush hours traffic rarely moves above 30 mph which is the speed limit for the road.  Thus the first effect is that traffic that is already moving at a snail’s pace comes to an almost complete stop as it approaches the camera’s  The three inbound lanes each have a camera and two of the three outbound lanes have one so you can imagine what this looks like.  While I don’t know of any reported accidents as a result of these particular cameras I have read reports of drivers slamming on the brakes at the last minute when they realize that there is a camera and causing accidents at other locations.

Another problem I have with these cameras is that drivers caught speeding can and have been ticketed only a block or two away by a police officer since they were still technically speeding.  I am not going to condone speeding but this smells like a definite revenue trap for the unsuspecting.  It’s not double jeopardy since one violation was from the camera at a spot different than where the officer ticketed the motorist.

There is no doubt that speed cameras are here to stay by virtue of the amount of money they generate for local jurisdictions and that trumps any supposed safety issue.  I propose that if it’s really about safety then operate the cameras when traffic is the heaviest and the risk is higher for accidents and turn them off in off-peak hours.   After all is it really a safety issue if someone is driving ten miles over the speed limit at midnight when there is little or no traffic?   Maybe it’s a dumb proposal but I would be far more convinced that the cameras serve a purpose other than that of a revenue generator if they were adjusted based on traffic volume.

If you think I’m off my rocker read this story on the arrangements Montgomery County, Md has with the private company operating the cameras.