Article of the Year

I’m a little late in posting on this one, but I’ve got to say that this editorial by Patrick Boyle is one of the best articles I’ve read this year. The writer concisely and accurately assesses the reality of the speed camera implementation in Olney, traffic engineering considerations and principals, and calls out the charade of safety that officials are trying to sell to the public. Here are a few choice passages:

If you think speed cameras catch only reckless drivers, then this suburb that real estate agents pitch as “family friendly” must attract the most dangerous drivers in the Washington area, according to county police data.

It’s a wonder that the streets of Olney aren’t littered with human roadkill. But many of us who’ve been nabbed think the success of these cameras reveals something else: Some of our speed limits are dishonestly low, and some of the cameras are set up in a sneaky way that turns reasonable drivers into violators.

Most Americans speed; 89 percent, according to a survey this year by Allstate. That doesn’t mean they all drive too fast. Traffic engineers recognize that drivers gravitate toward speeds that most of them feel are safe regardless of speed limits, and that their collective judgment is credible. That’s why engineers suggest following the 85th percentile rule … Montgomery County doesn’t use this guideline before putting up a speed camera.

State law restricts speed cameras to residential areas and school zones. Authorities pitched the cameras as a way to protect children and people trying to cross their own streets. Yet we commonly find the cameras on busy, four- and six-lane roads, in areas that are commercial or sparsely developed … But the camera aims away from the houses; it catches people who fail to slow down for a bank.

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