Over the next year, the quantity of traffic control cameras in Washington, D.C. might more than triple.
This is an apparently hopeless attempt to address the growing number of traffic deaths caused by a legal loophole that permits some drivers to avoid paying fines and penalties.
Issues and Disparities
As a portion of her budget proposal released on Wednesday, Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser requested $9.4 million to install 170 new traffic cameras to enforce speed restrictions.
However, the proposal did not provide a fix for a textual peculiarity that permits citizens of neighboring Virginia and Maryland to forego payment without incurring a real penalty.
Mayor Muriel Bowser's $19.5 billion budget proposal also aims to build a new annex to the D.C. Jail, add more traffic cameras, and create a new fund to promote Black home ownership. https://t.co/IugKEP6Rjj
— DCist (@DCist) March 17, 2022
In Washington, there is no system of ticket equivalence, which means nonresidents are treated the same as locals when they are pulled over for traffic violations.
Consequently, there is little regulation for Virginia and Maryland motorists to pay their fees, and many of them do not pay their fines.
According to the most recent statistics from the District Department of Transportation, more than 1.4 million traffic fines were issued by enforcement cameras around the district between October 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021.
73 percent of the penalties were collected from individuals who received tickets, implying more than a quarter of the tickets went unpaid.
Maryland and Virginia
Most unpaid tickets were given to Marylanders, who accounted for almost 48 percent of all outstanding fines. Virginians came in second place, accounting for almost 27 percent of all unpaid tickets in the state.
Drivers owe upwards of $53 million in traffic fines between the two jurisdictions, compared to around $10.7 million owed by district residents in traffic penalties.
In sum, drivers in Washington account for around 16 percent of all unpaid tickets.
The district administration has been working on a system of ticket reciprocity for some time.
The city council passed a law in September 2020, mandating the mayor to enter into contracts with the Virginia and Maryland authorities to guarantee that district-issued fines are properly paid.
According to the letter issued by the mayor to City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson in October, the two states “declined to engage in a reciprocity arrangement” with the federal government.
Mayor Muriel Bowser proposes increase in police funding, more traffic cameras in D.C. budget https://t.co/YsL0cTIytw
— Brospar Daily – US (@Brospar2022) March 16, 2022
According to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure, the mayor’s office sought a meeting of the three jurisdictions in November to establish a system of ticket equivalency, which the Washington Examiner reported.
According to the office, a deal on securing payment for all ticket types was still being considered Thursday afternoon.
Per the Metropolitan Police Department, the number of traffic fatalities has been steadily increasing over the last several years, with 40 documented deaths in 2021.
A request for comment from the Bowser administration did not get a response. However, it will be interesting to see how things unfold in the nearest future.