WASHINGTON â€” The leafy capital suburb of Chevy Chase Village is a great place to live but you wouldn’t want to visit there.
At least not by car. Easy-to-miss automated speed cameras on its half-mile main drag, where the speed limit is 30 mph, caught 3,500 speeders on their first day of operation last fall. Before that, the norm was six tickets a day.
Many speeders first learn they’ve been caught when citations, along with photographic evidence, show up at the addresses that match the violators’ license plates.
Be forewarned: More than 300 U.S. communities use automated “cop cam” systems like Chevy Chase’s. They’re after not just speeders but also red-light violators and railroad-crossing jumpers.
In the works are bus-mounted cop cams that ticket bus lane intruders, cop cams to punish speeders in highway construction zones, even cop cam systems that ticket motorists based on a car’s average speed over a mile. They catch drivers who brake for known camera sites, then resume speeding.
Want to fight a cop cam ticket?
The same software that processes violations lets drivers view the five seconds before and after their alleged offenses on their home computers.
“It’s very compelling evidence,” said Cristina Weekes, the executive vice president for sales and marketing at Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., a leading cop-cam maker.
“It’s almost a no-win,” admitted Horace Bradshaw, Washington’s best-known traffic court defense lawyer.
When polled, substantial majorities approve of cop cams. When ticketed, however, lots are outraged.
“It’s like Nazi Germany!” sputtered Dan Bradley, 41, a federal personnel investigator who routinely runs the six-lane Chevy Chase gantlet. “They ticket you for speeds that aren’t dangerous.”