News: Chevy Chase (Montgomery County) to Install Laser Cameras

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CyOps | Frequency Analyst
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Oct 3, 2007
LoCo MoCo, MD

Chevy Chase Draws a Bead on Speeders
Police Set to Install Laser Cameras

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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The truth is that, under certain circumstances, you could outrun the law in Chevy Chase.

For two years, the density of traffic on Connecticut Avenue -- three lanes each way -- often befuddled the cameras set up to catch speeding drivers. If a speeding vehicle triggered a camera and the photo showed two or three cars, who knew which one was speeding?

Everyone got off the hook.

Now, Chevy Chase Village is about to use lasers to catch you.

Laser speed cameras are common in Europe, but the majority of speed cameras used in this region, and most of the United States, employ radar to trigger the shutter. Whatever is going too fast -- a bird, a plane, Superman or a Subaru -- gets its picture taken. The laser camera, however, will tell you how fast each is going.

So, if the church lady who minds the speed limit is being passed by a pair of street racers on Connecticut Avenue, Police Chief Roy A. Gordon can make sure the guilty get punished.

"Right now, we're not getting 35 to 38 percent of violators," Gordon said. "Now we'll be able to get them all."

Two new laser-driven cameras might be ready for use by Friday, replacing a pair that use radar and have been in place since 2007 slightly more than a quarter of a mile north of Chevy Chase Circle.

Enforcing the 30 mph speed limit on the half-mile stretch of Connecticut Avenue that passes through the village presents a challenge for Gordon. The lanes are more than two feet narrower than the norm, there is no shoulder and up to 30,000 drivers use the road every day, he said.

"If an officer pulls a car over, we get calls saying, 'You're screwing up traffic,' " Gordon said.

Speeding decreased sharply after commuters became attuned to the flash of the speed cameras, Gordon said, but he sends from 150 to 200 citations, which carry a $40 fine, each week. He noticed some alert drivers were slowing down until they were clear of the cameras and then hitting the gas, so he occasionally bookends the fixed cameras with a pair of portable ones.

"You can look us up on any one of those speed-trap Web sites," Gordon said matter-of-factly. He's about to put two new portable laser cameras to use this week, too.

The District and Montgomery County use radar cameras. Speed cameras will be allowed in the rest of Maryland starting Oct. 1, but their use isn't permitted in Virginia.

Speeding tickets delivered by the postman tend to upset people more than those handed to them by a uniformed officer.

"There's been a big backlash in Great Britain, where they have 6,000 cameras on that little tiny island," said Joe Scott, who just returned from London. "They've been putting tires around the [camera] posts and setting them on fire, and they've been spray painted."

Scott takes note of this because his company, PhantomAlert, markets products designed to warn drivers when they approach a speed or red-light camera. He says laser cameras will help his business.

"It's an arms race," he said. "They deploy this new technology, and we upgrade, too, so that you can keep your hard-earned cash in your pocket."


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