WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of motorists speeding on neighborhood
streets in the nation's capital dropped sharply after police began using
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety measured travel speeds on
seven streets before the cameras and at the same sites six months after
deployment. The sites tested were among 60 locations in the city where
cameras have been used.
The number of motorists traveling more than 10 mph above the speed limit
decreased significantly at each of the seven sites. The decline ranged from
38 to 89 percent.
For comparison, the researchers also observed speeds during the same
periods at eight sites in Baltimore County, Md., which does not use cameras.
In each case, the proportion of speeding motorists stayed about the same
"The research provides clear indication that speed cameras and red light
cameras cause many drivers who would break the law to abide by it," said
Richard Retting, the institute's lead researcher.
About 70 communities around the country use cameras mounted at
intersections to catch drivers who run red lights. Speed cameras, which
measure how fast a vehicle is traveling, are used in only about a dozen
communities, Retting said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and others say the cameras infringe
privacy rights. Critics also complain the system unfairly assumes the owner
of the car is the person behind the wheel.
Last month, Hawaii's governor ordered a halt to use of speed cameras
complaints. The next day, the Legislature voted to repeal the three-year
Proponents say the cameras make the streets safer for law-abiding drivers
and reduce the number of police chases.
The District of Columbia started using speed cameras last summer. Five
are mounted on unmarked police cars and rotated among 60 sites. By the end
of March, 251,474 tickets had been issued and $10.5 million in fines
Washington police spokesman Kevin Morison said the insurance industry
study mirrors observations made by the department. He said one in three
motorists passing the cameras last July was speeding, compared with one
eight in March.
"Clearly our own results and now this independent study show these
cameras are having their intended effect, and that's to slow people down,"
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, is among the harshest critics
of traffic cameras, saying cities are using them to boost revenue.
Armey spokesman Richard Diamond questioned the objectivity of the
insurance industry, which he said benefits from tickets because they lead
higher rates for policyholders.
"If you are seeing lower speeds, that's often just a result of people
slamming on their brakes when they realize there is a camera there," Diamond
said. "It's a common phenomenon, and it's more of a safety problem than
The insurance institute plans to release its study this month.