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D.C. mayor questions lower speed cam fines; considers fine increase for repeat offenders

Wednesday - 10/17/2012, 3:28pm  ET

Mark Segraves, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is raising questions about whether the District government can afford to lower speed camera fines and is considering a system of graduated fines where repeat offenders pay more.

When asked about a proposal that would cap the fines at $50, which is supported by at least half of D.C. council members, Gray said he would need to see a fiscal impact statement before signing on.

"Someone is going to have to demonstrate how it would be paid for, so that's the first question," Gray said.

Photo enforcement brought in an estimated $80 million in 2010 and the mayor's proposal to expand the program is expected to generate an additional $25 million.

But Gray insisted the cameras were about public safety, not revenue.

"We know that these cameras actually have resulted in improved traffic safety," Gray said.

Police department data show traffic deaths have decreased by 76 percent in the 11 years the city has been using speed cameras.

Gray said in order to lower the fines and maintain a balanced budget, that revenue would have to come from somewhere else.

One idea being floated in the mayor's office is a graduated system of fines where the fine for the first infraction is lower, but the fines go up for repeat offenders, according to Gray's spokesperson Pedro Ribeiro.

"We're looking at several proposals that focus on graduated fines for the rate of speed and the number of infractions," Ribeiro tells WTOP in an email.

Another factor Gray's staff is considering is increasing the fines depending on the location of the infraction, such as school zones.

While Gray declined to give any specifics of what the fines should be, he implied that they should be "severe" enough to make people think twice about speeding in the District.

When speaking to reporters about new penalties for contractors who violate District regulations, Gray said, "It's kind of like speed cameras. If the fine isn't severe enough it won't matter whether they speed, it will be OK to pay the ticket."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)