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Residents Question Accuracy Of Bradley Boulevard Speed Camera

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 1/17/2014, 1:15pm  ET

This speed camera in the 5900 block of Bradley Boulevard has drawn the ire of nearby residents who accumulated a large amount of tickets in December

The complaints started flooding in a few weeks ago on a Bradley Boulevard neighborhood listserv.

Laurie Thomas said she got a citation from a speed camera in the 5600 block of Bradley Boulevard for going 42 miles per hour in the 30 mile per hour zone on Dec. 27.

Paula Spasaro said she got one for going 43 miles per hour on Dec. 30. “I was absolutely not going that fast,” Spasaro wrote.

Shaila Ohri said she got a citation from a camera in the 5900 block of Bradley Boulevard for going 43 miles per hour on Dec. 28. Jennifer Gaum said she got cited for going 42 miles per hour on Dec. 29. Vehicles traveling 12 or more miles per hour over the speed limit can be ticketed, according to state law.

They are a few of more than 15 residents who contacted BethesdaNow.com with citations for going 42, 43 or 44 miles per hour from the set of speed cameras on Bradley Boulevard near Huntington Parkway. Most deny they were going that fast, saying as residents they are well aware of where speed cameras are posted.

Some claimed the camera must have a glitch.

“There is either something wrong with the camera to have given so many tickets over the same timeframe,” Gaum said, “or people really do speed around there.”

According to Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone, Guam’s second theory is correct.

Didone, head of MCP’s Traffic Division, said all the department’s analysis of the cameras on Bradley checks out and he personally went out last week to take a look.

“We conducted our analysis and found that the cameras were operating correctly in all certifications and daily compliance logs have been completed,” Didone wrote in an email. “[I] witnessed that exceeding the 30 miles per hour speed limit was very prevalent.”

During December, MCP’s stats show about 127,000 vehicles passed the 5900 block camera, which recorded speeds as low as 8 miles per hour and as fast as 58 miles per hour. Of those, about 2 percent, or 2,600 vehicles, were identified as going 42 miles per hour or faster, earning citations.

The stats show the vast majority of those drivers (about 75 percent) were going 42, 43 or 44 miles per hour.

“So it is not unexpected that the people who contacted you displayed citations containing these speeds,” Didone wrote. “Our daily compliance tests and logs found that the equipment is operating with camera standards, so I am completely confident that citations are accurate and justly deserved.”

The discussion in the neighborhood has continued, with residents talking about how to protest.

Many said they don’t have time to go to court to appeal the $40 citation, which is a non-moving violation that goes unreported to insurance providers.

Other options include calling Montgomery County’s Automated Ticketing customer service field supervisor and getting records for a particular camera by sending a request to the Records Department at Montgomery County Police headquarters.

One resident even brought up another strategy — simply ignore the citation.

“Legally you do not have to respond, appear, pay or anything else. The only way you will ever hear anything about the ticket is if an officer shows up at your door with a summons for you to appear in court,” the resident wrote. “When you’re asked about the ticket you simply reply you never received a ticket, it must have been lost in the mail. Since most if not all local, city, county and state agencies do not send these types of tickets out via ‘certified mail’ there is no way to prove that you ever received it.”

She added, “Remember, these types of speed traps are a business.”

Police have repeatedly fought that school of thought and claim the speed camera program has significantly improved driving safety since it started in 2009.

As far as the controversial Bradley Boulevard cameras go, Didone said there’s no question a speed camera is warranted.

“Bradley Boulevard is a single lane, winding residential road with a speed limit I believe is appropriately set at 30 miles an hour because of the numerous driveways and roadways that access it and the limited sight distance because of the roadway design,” Didone wrote. “Speed cameras were placed at that location in response to citizen complaints and because our traditional enforcement was not effectively changing behavior.”