Monday, October 20, 2014

Data Shows Rockville Red Light Camera Tickets Doubled

Since 2011, Rockville has seen the number of red light camera tickets they have issued double, despite the fact that they have no more cameras in place than before.  The increase is primarily due to the city's policy of ticketing for slow moving right turns, or vehicles which did come to a stop but slightly ahead of the white line.

In 2010 and 2011, prior to the new policy, the City of Rockville issued 9436 and 8638 red light camera citations respectively.  In 2012 this number had risen to 17,794.  By 2013 this had further increased to 22,649.

As an example, data from the Rockville City website shows that a camera located on West Bound Gude Drive at Research Boulevard issued 1043 citations in the full year of 2011.  In 2013, the camera at this same location issued 4599 citations, four times as many.  A camera at West Bound Gude at Gaither rd issued 756 tickets in 2011, but issued 5428 tickets in 2013.  Furthermore, the overall increase in citations from 2011 to 2013 was despite the fact that there were fewer cameras in operation for the first 6 months of 2013, before the new model cameras went online in all ten locations.

City officials claimed to the press in 2013 that red light camera citations had declined from a "spike' which occurred in 2012 shortly after the new cameras and the new ticket standards were put in place.  However in fact the city still issued 2.6 times as many citations in 2013 compared to 2011, indicating that citations rates were still vastly higher than before the new policy was introduced.

In addition to ticketing for slow moving right turns, Rockville also issues tickets to vehicles who enter the intersection as little as 0.1 second after the light changes from amber to red.  Earlier this year WTOP reported on one case where a motorist did come to a full stop, ahead of the white line, on a day when due to piled up snow the motorist could not safely see into the intersection from behind the while line to make a turn.  City officials defended their right to ticket for the following violation, where the motorist pulled ahead of the white line to stop in order to see around piled up snow before making a turn:

Rockville began their stricter policy on enforcing right turns without seeking any new authority from the legislature or adding any new signage to the intersection.  The public only became aware of the change after the press began asking about the surge in new tickets.

Montgomery County also switched to the same model of cameras around the same time that Rockville did, and also saw red light camera ticket increase, though not by nearly as much as Rockville.  Montgomery County officials initially lied in response to complaints about unexplained flashes from red light cameras when there was no apparent violation by stating these were "warning flashes".  There is no standard traffic signal which issues "warning flashes" at traffic lights, and in fact the new model of cameras are specifically configured to take photos of any vehicle approaching at a certain speed in order to look for technical violations.  However since stating that the cameras were recording huge numbers of vehicles committing no violation at all would not have fit the official narrative that 'if you don't want your picture taken don't run red lights', County police have yet to acknowledge this lie.