MOCO boondoggle: Speed Limit Reduction + Speed cameras = $$$

MOCO boondoggle: Speed Limit Reduction + Speed cameras = $$$

In a controversial move that has residents, commuters, up in arms, Montgomery County in Maryland has decided to lower speed limits on many of its key roads. The decision, purportedly made to increase road safety, is predicted to bring a significant uptick in traffic congestion and could potentially increase the number of traffic accidents.

For years, the average speed limit in Montgomery County has been a balanced reflection of the need for swift mobility and public safety. The recent decision to reduce these speed limits is causing a significant wave of concern and dissatisfaction among the population. Lowering the speed limit often results in longer travel times and can lead to frustrating build-ups of traffic, especially during peak commuting hours.

The AAA and the Reason Foundation, two organizations well-known for their research on road safety and infrastructure, have also expressed their disapproval of this decision. They argue that these changes will contribute to heightened traffic congestion, which, paradoxically, may lead to a surge in road accidents rather than the reduction that policymakers aim to achieve. According to the Reason Foundation, road congestion often leads to aggressive driving behaviors such as tailgating, lane weaving, and sudden braking, all of which significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Moreover, the county’s decision to install additional speed cameras has been met with skepticism. The stated purpose of these devices is to ensure adherence to the new speed limits, but studies have shown that they can lead to a different set of problems. The AAA states that while speed cameras can deter speeding in the areas they are installed, they also often cause drivers to brake suddenly as they approach the cameras to avoid getting fined, thereby increasing the likelihood of rear-end collisions.

Furthermore, the Reason Foundation argues that speed cameras can create a ‘start-stop’ driving culture, where drivers speed up between cameras and then brake hard when a camera is in sight. This inconsistent driving behavior may further increase the likelihood of traffic accidents.

Instead of just focusing on reducing speed limits and installing speed cameras, these organizations suggest a more comprehensive approach towards road safety. For example, engineering solutions such as better road design and improved signage can help reduce accidents. Enhanced driver education about the dangers of aggressive driving behaviors in congested traffic is also recommended.

There is also a growing argument for adaptive speed limits, which change in real time according to the volume of traffic, weather conditions, and time of day. These are used effectively in some parts of the world, and studies suggest they can help manage traffic flow and reduce accidents.

In conclusion, while the intention of Montgomery County to improve “road safety” is nothing more than a cash cow for the county.  Adding speed cameras in combination with lower speeds by 5 to 10 mph on major roads like Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, Old Georgetown Road and other major thoroughfares is just a tax on motorists imposed by the county Council in the name of “Safety” the Traffic congestion and erratic driving behavior caused by such changes may increase the number of traffic accidents, counteracting the intended safety benefits. It is imperative that the County Council undo this mess, however with the reckless spending in Rockville is unlikely to happen. 

A more comprehensive, holistic approach towards improving road safety, one that goes beyond simply reducing speed limits and adding speed cameras, may be the more effective strategy.  Obe good place to start is to remove the bike lanes that are clogging up our major roads.