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Residents Question Accuracy Of Bradley Boulevard Speed Camera

by Aaron Kraut — January 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm 675 13 Comments

This speed camera in the 5900 block of Bradley Boulevard has drawn the ire of nearby residents who accumulated a large amount of tickets in December

The complaints started flooding in a few weeks ago on a Bradley Boulevard neighborhood listserv.

Laurie Thomas said she got a citation from a speed camera in the 5600 block of Bradley Boulevard for going 42 miles per hour in the 30 mile per hour zone on Dec. 27.

Paula Spasaro said she got one for going 43 miles per hour on Dec. 30. “I was absolutely not going that fast,” Spasaro wrote.

Shaila Ohri said she got a citation from a camera in the 5900 block of Bradley Boulevard for going 43 miles per hour on Dec. 28. Jennifer Gaum said she got cited for going 42 miles per hour on Dec. 29. Vehicles traveling 12 or more miles per hour over the speed limit can be ticketed, according to state law.

They are a few of more than 15 residents who contacted BethesdaNow.com with citations for going 42, 43 or 44 miles per hour from the set of speed cameras on Bradley Boulevard near Huntington Parkway. Most denied they were going that fast, saying as residents they are well aware of where speed cameras are posted.

Some claimed the camera must have a glitch.

“There is either something wrong with the camera to have given so many tickets over the same timeframe,” Gaum said, “or people really do speed around there.”

According to Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone, Guam’s second theory is correct.

Didone, head of MCP’s Traffic Division, said all the Department’s analysis of the cameras on Bradley checks out and he personally went out last week to take a look.

“We conducted our analysis and found that the cameras were operating correctly in all certifications and daily compliance logs have been completed,” Didone wrote in an email. “[I] witnessed that exceeding the 30 miles per hour speed limit was very prevalent.”

During December, MCP’s stats show about 127,000 vehicles passed the 5900 block camera, which recorded speeds as low as 8 miles per hour and as fast as 58 miles per hour. Of those, about 2 percent, or 2,600 vehicles, were identified as going 42 miles per hour or faster, earning citations.

The stats show the vast majority of those drivers (about 75 percent) were going 42, 43 or 44 miles per hour.

“So it is not unexpected that the people who contacted you displayed citations containing these speeds,” Didone wrote. “Our daily compliance tests and logs found that the equipment is operating with camera standards, so I am completely confident that citations are accurate and justly deserved.”

The discussion in the neighborhood has continued, with residents talking about how to protest.

Many said they don’t have time to go to court to appeal the $40 citation, which is a non-moving violation that goes unreported to insurance providers.

Other options include calling Montgomery County’s Automated Ticketing customer service field supervisor and getting records for a particular camera by sending a request to the Records Department at Montgomery County Police headquarters.

One resident brought up another strategy — simply ignore the citation.

“Legally you do not have to respond, appear, pay or anything else. The only way you will ever hear anything about the ticket is if an officer shows up at your door with a summons for you to appear in court,” the resident wrote. “When you’re asked about the ticket you simply reply you never received a ticket, it must have been lost in the mail. Since most if not all local, city, county and state agencies do not send these types of tickets out via ‘certified mail’ there is no way to prove that you ever received it.”

She added, “Remember, these types of speed traps are a business.”

Police have repeatedly fought that school of thought and claim the speed camera program has significantly improved driving safety since it started in 2009.

As far as the controversial Bradley Boulevard cameras go, Didone said there’s no question a speed camera is warranted.

“Bradley Boulevard is a single lane, winding residential road with a speed limit I believe is appropriately set at 30 miles an hour because of the numerous driveways and roadways that access it and the limited sight distance because of the roadway design,” Didone wrote. “Speed cameras were placed at that location in response to citizen complaints and because our traditional enforcement was not effectively changing behavior.”

  • MrBethesda

    But the real goal should be not to reduce speed but to reduce accidents. Has the number of accidents been reduced? If so, was there also a concomitant rise or fall in traffic volume?

  • rorojo

    Ignoring the ticket may lead to a call from the collections agency as well.

  • Toastmaster1

    Ignoring a ticket may result in the State failing to renew your license plates until the fine is paid.

  • Broken

    That camera is jacked. The other day it was snapping photos of every car and traffic was moving at 20mph.

  • Alan

    If safety were the issue, slower speeds would be assured by dynamic speed bumps. The cameras are a revenue source, not a safety measure. Note that nobody in a position to fix this camera has an incentive to do so: a properly functioning camera will bring in less revenue. Both the government and the private purveyor of the cameras profits from this higher revenue stream. The community loses.

  • Sheldon

    The speed here used to be 35 miles per hour, then they lowered it to 30 when the camera was installed. Is that fair?

  • AJ

    These cameras are politically unpopular and I guarantee any candidate who sends out a postcard identifying the legislators who approved MD’s speed camera laws wins their seat.

  • mddriversalliance

    It is a shame that Captain Didone fought tooth and nail, at taxpayer expense, to prevent legislation which would have placed timestamps on the citations accurate enough to verify the recorded speed. Then people would be able to verify the speed after the fact by doing a time distance calculation. However right now timestamps are rounded off to the second, and because of that auditing the accuracy of tickets after the fact is impossible. Which is exactly how MoCo and their contractor like it.

    Speed cameras in Baltimore City, which previously used the same vendor as Montgomery County, were admitted to have issued erroneous citations at rates as high as 1 in 20. This was extensively documented by the Baltimore Sun, google “Baltimore Speed Camera Errors”. Those devices passed all their calibration tests, even on the very day they issued citations to stationary vehicles. But Didone says “trust us”. And since the county fought to maintain a monopoly on the ability to identify errors (at your expense) the public has NO CHOICE.

    If you object to this, write to your state lawmakers (and also the members of the House Environmental Matters Committee). Delegate Jon Cardin has sponsored a bill which would change the law, and also prevent MoCo from paying their contractor based on the number of tickets. Or come visit us at MdDriversAlliance.org to learn all the other things MoCo doesn’t want you to know about speed cameras.

    • http://cydewaze.org/ cydewaze

      Of course they fought to prevent secondary verification of speed. The point isn’t to let you prove your innocence. The point is to make you PAY. The goal of the camera system is to issue as many citations as possible, and the point of the fine being only $40 (along with the lack of points) is to discourage citizens from contesting their tickets. It’s the “shut up and pay” method of speed enforcement.

  • barry o bull

    Didone is a corrupt officer. Where’s the news about AAA demanding action on this Scamera program? AAA even agrees it is money money money an nothing to do with safety.

    • mddriversalliance

      AAA is not a motorist rights organization. AAA is an insurance company/travel agency. They sold out on the speed camera issue a long time ago. They go out to the public and complain about speed cameras, but when repeal comes up in the legislature they signed up against it. I have a copy of the sign up sheet from the senate and house hearings on the bill showing AAA on the wrong side of the issue. Basically AAA comes out publicly and says it is about money, but as soon as they are out of public view they act as though they are OK with a program which is all about money. This is just something they do to build up “street cred” as a motorist organization which they can exchange for things which benefits their insurance business.

      The big problem I have with this is that AAA members in other states like Pennsylvania where speed cameras don’t exist YET, but are being considered, probably think AAA is out there opposing speed cameras on their behalf. This is not actually the case. The political views of people in those states are very very different than in Maryland and people there would probably be very cross with AAA if they knew what their real lobbying positions were.

      If you want someone to fight the cameras and not sell out try the National Motorists Association and the Maryland Drivers Alliance.

      • mddriversalliance

        Now if I were giving them the benefit of the doubt, I would say there is one reason AAA does this which is fairly practical: Organization which oppose speed cameras have been LOCKED OUT of discussions about speed cameras.

        For example: Didone was one of the organizers of a statewide “speed camera symposium” on Dec 4 of last year. AAA was a co-sponsor of the event, because they support speed cameras, and AAA invited us to send a representative. However Tom Didone blocked him at the door, stating the did not want us their because of our opposition to speed cameras. The press was also not allowed inside.

        AAA was also allowed to be a member of Baltimore City’s “speed camera task force”, attending meetings the press was not allowed to see (I might add that this was in violation of the open meetings act: Speed camera programs are not very big on transparency.). But AAA didn’t really raise any complaints until the problems were basically shoved into the city’s face by the Baltimore Sun.

        The problem is that since the price of participation in such meetings is to support speed cameras, that means there are no real critics present. AAA is just serving to legitimize such activities, so they can pretend that public participation is taking place when in fact actual critics have been banned.

  • Ben B

    I got a ticket here on December 30, 2013. I was NOT going 12 miles over the speed limit. This camera is not working properly.

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