To combat decreases in revenue from the state and county, the town of Takoma Park, Maryland has turned to traffic cameras as a source of city funding. City officials maintain that their main purpose is to promote driving safety. The city has installed at least six cameras at major intersections. Locations were chosen, the city says, based on the prevalence of past speeding offenses. Between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011, the city reportedly collected almost $1.74 million in traffic fines from tickets issued through camera evidence. After administrative costs paid to the vendor that manages the system, the city’s net revenue was $898,018. Maryland law requires that money obtained from traffic camera citations go solely towards public safety projects.
The city issued 6,530 tickets for violations captured by the cameras between October 1 and November 22, 2011. Not all tickets are paid, of course, but the system has apparently given the city a much-needed boost in revenue.
Despite any possible concerns over enforcement of criminal issues, the effect of the cameras on public safety, according to city officials, has been profound. Takoma Park Police Chief Ronald Ricucci told Gazette.net that the city’s two main “target areas,” New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard, have seen reductions in auto and pedestrian accidents since the city began using the cameras. It is not entirely clear how the cameras could improve driving safety while also increasing revenue from speeding tickets, unless a reduction in auto accidents is not directly related to the amount of speeding in those locations.
The cameras may prove to be useful when traffic accidents do occur, as a source of evidence. Traffic cameras typically take a photograph of an intersection or stretch of road with a wide enough angle to capture a vehicle and its surroundings, but also with enough detail to see features like license plates numbers. Images from the cameras could assist in resolving disputes over whether a driver ran a red light, which driver had the right of way, whether a driver made an improper merge, and so forth. This is still a new technology, especially in our legal system, which is slow to adapt to many new technologies. As such, evidence rules and court procedures are still adapting to this new type of evidence.
Critics of the system point out that alleged violators have little means of challenging a citation. They receive notice of the ticket in the mail, based on camera evidence they did not know existed up to that moment. The cameras may not provide a reliable means for authorities to determine who was actually driving a vehicle at the time of an alleged offense. This could raise a constitutional question, since tickets are issued to the registered owner of the vehicle based on the license plate. Prosecution could be difficult without a positive identification of the driver. Defendants also have less ability to challenge their accuser, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, since their most immediate “accuser” is a piece of machinery.
The Maryland accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured in automobile accidents on Maryland roads. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.
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