Life in the fast lane just got slightly slower.

Geography Column
Written by Paige Dearing

60, 50, 40, 35: the gradual speed limit decrease suggested on Georgia Avenue’s 2-mile streamline entering Olney, MD.

65, 65, 65, 45: what I and hundreds of other drivers maintain on the stretch of road, traveled like a highway but surrounded by suburban life.It’s hard to follow the decline. My car windows are fully down. My iPod is amped to an intensity that would usually cause temporary deafness, but the warm breeze softens it to just the right level. I not only hear the music, but feel it too.

The bass line, the melody, the chorus all feel much more powerful at 60 miles per hour. The strip is straight as an arrow, and I’m dancing as much as my seatbelt allows me too. A traffic light is approaching. It’s usually green and if it isn’t, I still have time to decelerate.

I leapfrog up the right-hand lane, avoiding the laggers but not putting pedal to the metal. I do not rush to the lead the pack. I’m flowing with traffic. I don’t have a hot date to get to.

The scenario does not change much before I realize I am in Olney – not much of a town as it is an intersection of two major roads, Georgia Avenue and Route 108.

My maintained 60 miles per hour probably became illegal about a mile and a half back. Before this summer I would not have sweated it. No cops, no problem. But now I shouldn’t feel so safe.

Two words “Photo Enforced” anchored at the bottom of the white speed limit sign worry me that I will be giving Montgomery County a mandatory $40 cash donation for public safety programs.

Speed cameras were adopted in Washington D.C. in 1999 aside red-light cameras in an effort to curb speed-related accidents. Since their installation, the average speed traveled on neighborhood streets has dropped nearly 30 percent and 21.7 percent on highways.

In 2006, Maryland passed a law allowing the same cameras to be installed in the state. Since, Montogomery County, the City of Gaithersburg and Chevy Chase Village have done just that.

The Georgia Avenue cameras were installed within the past six months, as well as the ones I’ve spotted on Randolph Road.

A Montgomery County Council report will investigate the effectiveness of the new cameras and will be due to the Maryland General Assembly by 2009.

Many countries across the globe already use traffic cameras, including France and the UK. The UK uses SPECS (Speed Enforcement Camera System) which identifies the time a car takes to past between two points to calculate its speed opposed to photography.

Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. manufactures technology for both American and abroad local and state governments for traffic solutions. They offer Fixed Speed & Red-Light Combination, Fixed Mid-Block Speed, Speed Sensor Options (Light distance and ranging, radar or pressure sensoring), Mobile Speed Delivery (photo-radar vans) and LaserCam.

The LaserCam is outfitted with a digital camera as well as laser detector. It is able to take a close-up image of the car, its surroundings and license plate.

I have to admit: the campaign is highly effective. I immediately slow whenever I see a “photo enforced” sign. I have never seen drivers be so aware of their speed, let alone cautious.

I’m sure I still speed through bugged areas without even knowing. I only found out that Georgia had speed cameras because of my mom. Luckily, Photoenforced.com can produce a map of your metro area highlighting all the cameras.

I still catch myself sometimes driving fast and as much as I’m angry I might have to pay a fine and doubt the accuracy of a camera, it is forcing people to adopt safer driving habits.

A little birdie told me that the camera only issues tickets for those going 10 or more miles over the speed limit. I guess I’ll be able to test that theory soon enough.

(Links today found via: Photoenforced.com and Washington Post Online)

Think Paige should be slowing down? E-mail her.
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