$100 Million in Speed Trap Revenue: Speed-camera tickets doubled last year in D.C., new data shows

by Sean Riley


The Washington Post

The District issued almost a million speed-camera tickets last year, according to data released Wednesday, cementing the city’s regional reputation as a “speed trap” for residents and visiting motorists alike.

The number of tickets — which led to $99.2 million in revenue for the city — was nearly double that issued the previous year, according to AAA’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, which obtained the figures through a public-records request to the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

The District’s citations also far exceeded those in neighboring jurisdictions, according to the data collected by AAA. The District issued 994,163 speed-camera tickets, compared to 529,993 in Montgomery County and 263,302 in Prince George’s County. Virginia is prevented by state law from using speed cameras.

A D.C. police spokeswoman said the department could not independently confirm AAA’s figures.

The dramatic increase could revive debate about the cameras, which have caused controversy in many cities across the country where they have been set up.

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In the District, being caught by a camera results in a ticket that can range from $50 to $300, depending on speed.

Research has shown that the presence of speed cameras leads to safer driving. But many motorists have mixed feelings about them, and some have argued that their true purpose is to serve as a cash cow for the governments that use them.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II said the extraordinary number of tickets issued during the 2016 fiscal year suggested that the cameras were not deterring speeding and that they may be set up in a manner to “entrap and ensnare motorists as they come into the city.”

“What is astounding to us is the sheer number of tickets,” Townsend said. “Something is wrong when you’re issuing a million tickets a year.”

However, Townsend said he had no proof that the cameras had been set up with anything other than public safety in mind and said the purpose of AAA’s publication of the figures was merely to warn motorists that they should obey speed laws — especially in the District.

“This was more to let people know, and not to call for a policy change,” Townsend said.

Margarita Mikhaylova, a spokeswoman for D.C. police, said officials did not know what specific factors might be behind the sharp uptick in tickets but that “we would not be surprised that there was an increase given that MPD has improved a number of internal processes associated with our photo enforcement unit.”

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