PALMER PARK, Md. - The debate on speed cameras is going strong in Prince George's County.
One year ago, the county joined neighboring Maryland jurisdictions and D.C. in handing out tickets via speed cameras. Like Montgomery County, drivers receive a $40 ticket for going more than 12 mph over the speed limit.
Twelve months later, Prince George's County Police call the speed cameras a success.
"We've seen dramatic reduction in our fatalities," says Prince George's County Police Maj. Robert V. Liberati, who runs the camera program.
According to data provided to WTOP, deadly accidents dropped from 48 to 41 across Prince George's County from January through August of 2011 and 2012.
However, deadly accidents involving pedestrians dropped from 21 to 14, or a 33 percent reduction.
Liberati tells WTOP speed cameras encourage drivers to slow down in school zones where children will frequently cross the street during the day. He credits the cameras with the drop in fatalities.
"After you receive a violation or two, you're going to learn that you have to slow down. It's about behavior modification, that just because there isn't an officer with a radar gun ahead, you still have to pay attention to the speed limit, particular in school zones," says Liberati.
Among the approximately 300 public schools, 125 either have or had a mobile speed camera since last September.
Even some of the most ardent critics of speed cameras acknowledge putting them in school zones is a good idea.
That includes Bruce May, the Ellicott City man who took a slingshot and damaged a speed camera in June.
"Those children are all over the place, it would be very easy to hit a kid. I totally understand that," he told WTOP in an exclusive interview earlier this month.
But it's the cameras located outside school zones that generate tickets and money for the government that some dislike.
"I think they're terrible. The government is just trying to get money out of people, and it's something police officers should be doing themselves." says driver Cory Simmons.
In fact, Bruce May referred to them as "roadside ATMs."
Since last September, Prince George's County Police say 435,000 tickets have been issued, generating $7.1 million dollars.
So far, 62 speed cameras are in place, with 10 more going up before the end of October.
"You can make an argument about money. But, it works. Take a ride near any of these speeds cameras 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you'll see people slow down," says Prince George's County Police Maj. Robert V. Liberati.
Most drivers seem to agree with Liberati's analysis, although they're mixed about whether that's good.
"I've been caught once or twice. So I think next time, I have to be very careful on how I drive," says Sam Kuffour.
"I think it's just about trying to keep us safe. I've been driving a few miles over the speed limit and people have passed me and almost hit me because they're speeding up to get someplace faster. I think it's ridiculous," says Maiah Colvin.
"I know a couple of police officers who are way over-trained to be pulling over miscreants with lead feet. The fact that they can let the technology do it, so that they can bust real crooks, is a good idea," says Jason Tesauro.
But some disagree.
"It just slows traffic down and you already have traffic in the morning because of it. It's just stupid. People slow down to get under the speed limit, which creates a traffic jam, then everyone goes 60 or 70 mph after them," says Simmons.
"We have a duty to make the roadways safe. If it takes a couple minutes to get to your destination, so be it," says Major Liberati.
And he says people are driving safer.
Last September, 48 drivers per day received tickets.
Now the number is 22.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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