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Rockville's spike in red-light camera tickets declines

Saturday - 3/9/2013, 7:46am  ET

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The intersection at West Gude Drive and Gaither Road in Rockville saw a 797 percent increase in red-light camera tickets late last year. So far, the numbers have decreased in 2013. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Last month, WTOP reported that red-light camera tickets jumped 343 percent in Rockville between August and December 2012, compared to the same period in 2011.

However, the number of red-light camera tickets is declining so far in 2013, according to documents obtained by WTOP.

Rockville issued 2,047 tickets overall in January and February. While the number is up from 1,510 tickets during the same period in 2012, it is down from 8,782 tickets issued last August and September.

"The drivers' past behavior was inappropriate. They weren't coming to a full and complete stop before making a right turn, as required under the law," says Maj. Michael England of Rockville City Police, referring to what is known as a rolling right turn. "The new behavior is known and they come to a full and complete stop, so the numbers have dropped."

Critics of red-light camera programs point to studies in Los Angeles, Longview, Wash. and parts of Illinois that show nearly 90 percent of all tickets come from rolling right turns.

But a 2004 study from Texas A&M's Transportation Institute found that accidents from these turns are exceedingly rare and do not pose a serious traffic safety problem.

England says Rockville only issues tickets for rolling right turns when the driver is going above 13 mph, which he says is dangerous to pedestrians.

"We throw out any tickets if we're unsure about whether it's a violation," says England. "Our goal is that every citation holds up in court."

Meanwhile, there has also been a similar drop in tickets at two intersections (at West Gude Drive and Gaither Road and at West Gude Drive and Research Boulevard), but not all drivers are seeing the decline.

In the first two months of 2013, 665 tickets were issued at Gaither Road and 352 tickets were issued at Research Boulevard, according to the documents. The 2013 numbers are up from the same period in 2012 but down from the 5,342 tickets combined at the two intersections last August and September.

Rockville City Police say they will unveil five new red-light cameras later this year at the following locations:

  • Westbound Park Road at N. Stonestreet Avenue
  • Northbound N. Washington Street at Middle Lane
  • Southbound Tower Oaks Boulevard at the I-270 Ramp
  • Northbound Gaither Road at Redland Boulevard (one block from West Gude Drive)
  • Westbound W. Jefferson Street at W. Montgomery Avenue

Rockville City Police have not released the exact date to when these cameras will become operational. Some of the cameras are on state roads, requiring state approval.

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