Mary Jelks of Fort Washington drives the speed limit not only because it’s the law, but also to avoid commuters who don’t obey speed restrictions.
But the retired federal worker also dodges streets with speed cameras “because I don’t trust them.”
She plans to do that if state lawmakers approve installation of a device at Old Fort Road and Indian Head Highway in Fort Washington. However, they must decide by Monday, April 9 before the General Assembly session in Annapolis comes to an end.
The bill was approved in the House last month, but is currently under review in the Senate.
“I personally think there are too many speed cameras in [Prince George’s County],” Jelks said. “Just put a police officer there to do his or her job. Person-to-person communication is good.”
Delegate Kris Valderrama (D-District 26) of Fort Washington, who sponsored the legislation, said a speed camera would ease congestion, slow down drivers and decrease crashes.
According to the legislation, 58 people died in 47 crashes along “one of the deadliest highways in Maryland” between 2007 and 2017.
The worst crash on the highway, also known as Route 210, happened in February 2008 during an illegal street race when a driver veered off the road, killing eight onlookers and injuring several others.
No fatal crashes have occurred so far this year, but a vehicle struck and killed a 24-year-old woman on March 22 near Route 210 and Kerby Hill and Livingston roads, about one mile south of the MGM National Harbor casino and resort.
Construction continues at that intersection on a $116 million interchange to relieve traffic congestion, with work scheduled to end next year.
The intersection where that collision took place sits about one mile north of Route 210 and Old Fort Road one near Livingston Square. The same two streets intersect about three miles south near the Potomac Village shopping center.
It’s unclear which intersection the camera would monitor for drivers headed southbound toward Charles County.
Bertha Anistead of Fort Washington supports the use of cameras, no matter where they’re placed.
“One ticket should slow you down,” said Anistead, who received a speed camera ticket in the county more than a month ago. “I think anything will help to slow traffic down. We want people to be safe and drive safely.”
However, state law allows speed cameras near a school and highway work zones. No schools are located along Route 210 that stretches 21 miles into Charles County.
Meanwhile, Jelks and other opponents of speed cameras say they mainly serve as a revenue generator.
A summary of the county speed camera profits shows net revenues of $25.5 million between fiscal years 2013-17. Revenue slightly decreased each year as enforcement increased.
A state analysis estimated county revenues would increase by $438,000 if the camera captured 30 violations per day and each $40 fine paid.
All money received from the proposed speed camera in Fort Washington would go into a criminal injuries compensation fund.
During a hearing Tuesday in Annapolis before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on the bill, Valderrama disputed the revenue claim.
According to police data, Prince George’s and state police have issued about 16,000 traffic citations along Route 210 since September. Nearly half of the tickets came from a speed camera in a work zone at Route 210 and Kerby Hill and Livingston roads.
“That has surely helped, but drivers still need to change their behavior and value life over speed,” she said.
State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Accokeek, a member of the committee, had a simple message for those who dismiss speed cameras as a money-making device.
“I would make sure that they go see some of the families of victims [and] they wouldn’t see it that way,” he said.
Ron Weiss, a community activist who resides in Fort Washington, wanted more than just one speed camera posted along Route 210. According to the state Highway Administration, 241 crashes occurred around Route 210 and Palmer Road between January 2007 and June 2017. That intersection rests one junction south from Route 210 and Old Fort Road near Livingston Square.
“It’s not all that we wanted, but it’s a good start,” Weiss said. “I am so relieved and very happy with the representation I have in my area. Hopefully we have the Senate behind it.”