Sunday, May 24, 2009

Speed Camera Warning Signs Appearing in Potomac

Kudos to the individual who has posted signs warning drivers ahead of speed cameras in the Potomac Region. According to a report on WJLA news, the signs have been posted by an anonymous Potomac resident, identified as only as the "Potomac Secret Agent" who is frustrate with the increasing automated traffic enforcement in the area.

The speed cameras in the Potomac region have been criticized by some area residents because they were placed and extremely short distance after a 10mph drop in the speed limit, almost as close as some other cameras in Darnestown. The Montgomery County Government is in the process of doubling its number of fixed-pole cameras from 30 to 60 in order to meet a $15.7 million revenue goal set in its FY10 budget.

The signs refer to a real-estate based website which promotes the petition for referendum against the recently passed statewide speed camera law. If other individuals are similarly frustrated by the cameras and do not wish to see them spread to every road in the state, they can protest by collecting signatures for that petition.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Speed Camera Fib #3: Those Miraculous Accident Figures

Chevy Chase Village has claimed incredible safety results from their cameras. And I mean literally incredible. CCV officials told the Gazette that "Collisions in the village are down 70 to 80 percent" [source]. They have repeated similar claims to the press many times. "Where we used to average 12 to 14 collisions a month on Connecticut Avenue, we are now averaging about 3 or 4"[source].

The problem is that the Village’s own police reports, which report the number of accidents they responded to, do not uphold these claims. We examined the monthly police reports posted to Chevy Chase Village’s website for a period of time before the speed cameras were introduced to the latest 12 month period of time
Before Cameras
Month : #Accidents Reported
Mar2006 : 10
Apr
2006 : 14
May
2006 : 9
Jun
2006 : 12
Jul
2006 : 14
Aug
2006 : 12
Sep
2006 : 11
Oct
2006 : 18
Nov
2006 : 10
Dec
2006 : 14
Jan
2007 : 3
Average : 11.545


After Cameras
Month : #Accidents Reported
May
2008 : 16
Jun
2008 : 7
Jul
2008 : 10
Aug
2008 : 10
Sep
2008 : 10
Oct
2008 : 10
Nov
2008 : 17
Dec
2008 : 16
Jan
2009 : 8
Feb
2009 : 8
Mar
2009 : 13
Apr
2009 : 17
Average
: 11.833

The average monthly number of accidents reported by Chevy Chase Village police for these periods of time were actually slightly greater now than before the cameras were introduced. Note that these numbers were for all of Chevy Chase Village, including Connecticut Ave. Accident rates naturally fluctuate and are subject to seasonal variations, so it may have been possible to find a short period of time supporting the safety claims of CCV officials (comparing the worst single month before the cameras to the best single month after). However the numbers from their police reports for any sustained period of time do not support anything remotely close to their claim that the section of Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase Village was seeing an average 14 accidents per month prior to using speed cameras and a 70-80% drop in accidents after they were installed.

Traffic fatalities were reportedly down 9% NATIONWIDE in 2008, attributed to the price of gas, with at least 42 states seeing marked reductions in traffic fatalities[source]. Most of those states do NOT use speed cameras. For the first half of 2008 traffic fatalities per vehicle mile reached the lowest level ever recorded up to that date.

Under Maryland’s newly passed Senate Bill 277, the authorization of speed cameras, local governments which use speed cameras will need to report back to the general assembly in 2012 about the success or failure of their programs. SB277 includes the use of speed cameras in workzones on “expressways” with “speed limits of 45mph or greater” which can be used “regardless of whether workers are present” (not that anyone would ever set up workzone cameras without workers). One study sanctioned by the UK government from 2001-2003 regarding the effectiveness of workzone speed cameras showed “No significant difference was observed in the PIA(personal injury accident) rate for sites with and without speed cameras[source]” However since SB277 sets no standard for measuring success, Maryland’s programs need not need to worry about failure and can all be “successful” since the agencies which control access to the data can choose any standard and present only that data that shows success. It also does not require localities to consider other alternatives for speed control, or demonstrate that speed cameras were actually the best solution.