Results of speed cameras better than expected

July 02, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • This automated speed camera is on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

It’s been about two months since automated speed cameras went live in school zones around the city of Hagerstown, and preliminary figures show that speeding in those areas has begun to decrease, according to city officials.

“The early results are better than expected,” Hagerstown Police Capt. Mark Holtzman said Friday.

Compared with traffic data collected by the city’s engineering department before cameras were installed, police expected to see about an 80 percent drop in speeding violations, but results have been better in some locations, he said.

Although about 2,700 tickets were issued from June 18 to 22, speeding has been reduced by 40 percent to 90 percent in the six locations where cameras are in operation, Holtzman said.

The first zone to go live April 16, Northern Avenue in the area of Northern Middle and Fountaindale Elementary schools, has seen an 80 percent reduction in speeders driving 40 mph or faster in the area where the speed limit is 25 mph, city spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said in a news release.

In the eastbound lanes of Northern Avenue, the number of speeders going 40 mph or faster has dropped from 900 per day before the cameras were working to 175 per day now, Wolfe said.

A 90 percent reduction was found on Pangborn Boulevard, the second camera zone to go live near Pangborn Elementary School about six weeks ago, where speeding violations of 40 mph or faster have dropped from 250 to 22 per day, she said.

“It’s a very significant drop for driving behavior for that area,” Holtzman said of Northern Avenue. “Same thing with Pangborn Boulevard, which was one of our higher complaint areas for speeding.”

The other four school zones with cameras have shown reductions of 40 percent to 60 percent in the number of speeders driving 40 mph or faster, Holtzman said.

“As people get more comfortable with the locations of these cameras and they learn to change their driving behavior around our schools, we’re expecting these numbers to continue to fall,” he said.

People might just get tired of paying the $40 fines associated with tickets, sent to drivers caught traveling 12 mph or more over the posted speed limits in the school zone.

The city recently received $29,000 for its portion of citations issued and paid for in May, Wolfe said. The city’s take on paid citations is 60 percent, while the camera vendor, Brekford, gets 40 percent.

“It does generate revenue for the city,” Holtzman said. “And what it also does is it saves the police department manpower and resources, and enforces the speed limits. It’s allowing ... our police officers to be on patrol versus running radar in a school zone. They can be elsewhere on their patrol beat.”

When drivers are caught speeding, a camera snaps a photo of the vehicle’s license plate and it is sent to Brekford. From there, the citations are sent to the Hagerstown Police Department, where officers double-check the violations, then mail them out to offenders.

If paid within seven days of issuance, tickets will be discounted to $35, according to the program approved by the Hagerstown City Council in late January. Citations are not considered moving violations, meaning no points will be assessed to a driver’s record and insurance companies won’t be notified.

The cameras operate year-round, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

City officials originally estimated that about $600,000 in revenue would be generated from the cameras during fiscal year 2012-13, which began July 1.

Hagerstown’s portion of that money, about $360,000, is split up into a first-year allocation of $246,000 for the city’s public safety expenditures and $114,000 to the police department to pay for officer overtime, based on estimates. Brekford will receive the remaining $240,000.

The five-member city council on Jan. 31, voted 4-1 to approve the camera program, with Councilman Forrest Easton voting against it. Easton and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who also was not in favor of the program, said the hours of operation were excessive, since cameras would be operating even during the summer months when school was not in session.

Currently, six designated school zones, with either one or two cameras and marked by signs and flashing lights, have been established, and two more will be added in the coming weeks, as soon as they are approved and installed by the Maryland State Highway Administration, Holtzman said.

The two new camera zones will be at Md. 65 near E. Russell Hicks Middle School and U.S. 40 at Winter Street Elementary School.

“There could be more, but that’s all that I know that are planned for right now,” Holtzman said.

City speed camera zones currently active:

  • Northern Avenue, near Northern Middle and Fountaindale Elementary schools
  • Pangborn Boulevard, at Pangborn Elementary School
  • Pennsylvania Avenue, near North Hagerstown High School
  • Salem Avenue, near Salem Avenue Elementary School
  • South Potomac Street, at Bester Elementary School
  • Memorial Boulevard, at Bester Elementary School

City speed camera zones to be installed:
  • Md. 65 (South Potomac Street/Sharpsburg Pike), near E. Russell Hicks Middle School
  • U.S. 40 (National Pike), near Winter Street Elementary School

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