Monday, February 11, 2013

Rockville's Million Dollar Right Turn Cameras

WTOP Reports that the City of Rockville's 5 red light cameras issued 15,133 in the last 5 months of 2013, compared with only 3423 issued by ten cameras in the previous year, after reconfiguring them to ticket motorists for making slow moving right turns on red or stopping past the white line.

The tickets issued by the five cameras in less than half a year would have a potential value of over $1.1 million in fines.

Rockville had replaced it's 10 red light cameras with 5 of a new model in August of 2012, which were specifically configured to ticket for rolling right turns.  The City has plans to go back to 10 cameras in the near future.

According to city data, one single camera at Gude Drive and Gaither Road, saw 258 citations from August and December of 2011.  During the same 5 months of 2012, 4304 citations were issued: a factor of 14 increase.
See Rockville's 2012 Ticket Data
2011 Ticket Data

 "Prior to the new technology, the violations we caught were those who are going straight through the light or making right turns on red where it was prohibited. So now we've added a third tier, those failing to come to a complete stop prior to the stop bar while making a right," said Rockville Police Chief England.

Rockville had previously discussed the new cameras with the Gazette regarding a significant increase in City revenues last year: "The new vendor is able to set up cameras in right-turn-on-red areas, whereas the other vendor couldn’t, so we’re capturing some of the right-turn-on-red violations,” according to Stacey Webster, the city’s budget and finance manager.

Some Motorists have been "unhappy" with the new enforcement rules:
"I was floored. I am a safe and careful driver and as I approached this particular three-way intersection at West Gude Drive and Gaither Road on Aug. 7, I made the judgment that, since no traffic was coming from my left because the opposite intersection was turning left, this was a safe turn, " says driver Maggie Lora in an email to WTOP.

Other motorists have made their complaints public.

"The right turn on red camera at Gude Drive and Gaither Road is not a safety factor" Wrote Dr. Alan S. Kaplan of  Rockville in a letter to the Gazette, "Gude/Gaither is a T intersection with no traffic coming from the left when drivers turn on to Gaither from Gude. Rockville officials have taken advantage of learned behavior." ... "If the city was really concerned, and not money hungry, they would have installed a red/green arrow to control right turns."

WTOP Cited a 2004 study from Texas A&M's Transportation Institute (2004) found that accidents from these turns are "exceedingly rare" and don't pose a serious traffic safety problem.  A 1995 NHTSA report drew the same conclusion.

"Ninety percent of the tickets we're seeing across the country, according to some studies, for running red lights, are actually because the driver made a so-called rolling right turn on red."
said John Townsend of AAA to WTOP.

A Feb 11 2013 financial report by Rockville also referenced their "upgraded" camera program:
"Fines and Forfeitures - Revenues received from redlight camera infractions make up most of this category. Revenue from redlight cameras is estimated to increase from adopted FY 2013 to FY 2014. FY 2013 revenue was adopted at $637,500 and will be increased through the amendment process during the year. For FY 2014, staff estimates revenues of approximately $1.8 million. The increase in revenues during FY 2013 and for FY 2014 is due to the installation of five new redlight cameras in August 2012. These new cameras have upgraded technology that allows the cameras to capture right turn on red violations. The City's previous redlight cameras captured only straight through violations and right turn on red restrictions. As a result of this added capability, there has been an increase in the number of redlight camera citations issued. In addition to the five cameras that were installed in August 2012, the City will install five additional cameras before the start of the new fiscal year. The City receives $75 in revenue per paid citation; the City pays the vendor $29.34 per issued citation."

Rockville Mayor Marcuccio
Elected officials in Annapolis and Rockville are responsible for setting policies such as this one. Police and traffic engineers working for the city are merely 'following orders' and are paid to say what they say.  Go over Mayor Marcuccio's head, find your state elected officials, tell them that Rockville's program proves what photo enforcement is really about, and tell them to repeal Mayor Marcuccio's authority for right turn cameras.  If your state lawmakers will not listen to your complaints, you should not vote for them in the future.