Law Enforcement Case Study: Montgomery County, Maryland
Safe Speed Program (using technology to aim for 100% compliance)
In 2004, the National Study Center at the University of Maryland, reported that more drivers were cited for speeding in Montgomery County, Maryland (population 932,000), than any other type of traffic violation, accounting for 36 percent of all traffic violations. A Montgomery County poll conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reported that 74 percent of residents that responded to the poll believed speeding is a problem on residential streets and 59 percent of respondents favored the use of speed cameras as a method of speed enforcement. While not initiated as part of a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, Montgomery County's "Safe Speed" program has had success in reducing speeds and could be replicated in areas around schools as part of a SRTS program.
"The safety of the people who live and work in Montgomery County is always our top priority. Automated speed enforcement will help our County enforce the traffic laws and combat and correct the aggressive driving behavior of those who choose to speed. Our goal is to save lives, and speed cameras will give us another resource that will complement our existing enforcement measures."
—J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County Police Chief
To address the county's speed problem, the Montgomery County Police Department began the Safe Speed program in May 2007. The purpose of the Safe Speed program is to provide a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, including students who are walking and bicycling to and from school. The use of speed cameras allows the police department to be in places they do not otherwise have the manpower to be and allows them to devote their time to other pressing issues beyond speed enforcement. To maintain the program, the police department works closely with the county's Department of Public Works, District Court and the Maryland State Highway Administration.
With an initial investment of approximately $3,000 from their annual budget and approval by the Maryland State Legislature, the police department permanently mounted twenty speed radar cameras throughout residential neighborhoods and school zones. In addition, six mobile speed camera vans are also rotated throughout the county. Currently speed cameras track 30 roads that have speeds of 35 mph or less. The use of cameras on roads is determined by a set of weighted criteria designed to place the cameras in areas with severe and chronic speeding problems. There are approximately 10 school zones currently monitored by speed cameras and all monitored zones are listed on the county's website. Most zones have signage that notifies drivers that speed is photo-enforced. If a camera identifies a car that is going above the "threshold speed limit" a citation is then issued to the owner of the motor vehicle.
Since the start of the program in May 2007, approximately 156,000 citations have been issued each with a citation charge of $40. All revenues generated by the Safe Speed program are State mandated to be used for public safety initiatives or pedestrian safety initiatives within Montgomery County. A follow-up study in January 2008 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that the proportion of vehicles exceeding speed limits by more than 10 mph declined by 70 percent at the sites where photo-enforcement was used. The National Association of Governors recently awarded a letter of appreciation and accommodation to Montgomery County citing the Safe Speed program as a model program for the State or the Country???? Currently, the county and police department are working with several other U.S. and Canadian cities to replicate the Safe Speed program in other areas. Based on the success of Montgomery County's program, a bill has been submitted to the Maryland State Legislature to expand the ability to conduct photo-enforcement throughout Maryland.
Lieutenant Ronald G. Smith
Montgomery County Police Department
Special Operations Division
- Montgomery County Safe Speed Program
- Insurance Institute for Highway Traffic Safety: "Evaluation of Automated Speed Enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland," January 2008