County Officials Hope For Dedicated Pedestrian Safety Funding
Despite more than $8 million in speed camera revenue, Montgomery County Police are working overtime to do many of the pedestrian crosswalk stings that have popped up over the last two years.
Some on the County Council want to once again make the speed camera fund a dedicated funding source so police can implement crosswalk stings and other education programs more consistently.
During a hearing on Monday with the Council’s Transportation Committee, Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone said the department’s Traffic Division doesn’t have earmarked money or specific officers assigned to the pedestrian crosswalk stings.
“We need some bodies that are dedicated to be a champion for the cause,” Didone said. “We look at some of the stings and we see immediately successful results, but we’re only doing them once or twice a month. If we went there twice a week, you would see the change in behavior.”
Didone said that the department began with $250,000 dedicated to traffic safety and enforcement when the county first set up its speed camera program in 2007. Through tough budget years and because of a change in the way the state speed camera law was worded, that money eventually dwindled down to nothing.
Now, Didone must rely on officers working on overtime to conduct activities such as the crosswalk stings, in which an officer in a bright yellow shirt will walk through a crosswalk. Those motorists who don’t stop for the crosswalk, as required by law, are pulled over and given a citation.
A sting operation in April at the notorious crosswalk of Wisconsin Avenue at Stanford Street led to 24 citations in two hours. In June 2013, police nabbed 22 drivers for failing to stop with a pedestrian in the crosswalk. In April 2013, as police began an aggressive pedestrian safety initiative after a sting of pedestrian collisions, a motorist mowed down one of the pedestrian signs at the crosswalk.
Councilmember Roger Berliner agreed with Didone that the county should again set aside dedicated funding for police and Department of Transportation pedestrian safety enforcement and education. Didone said another missing element is education in the school system. Didone said police have done pedestrian safety education in just two county high schools.
Berliner asked DOT officials at the hearing to encourage some money from speed camera revenue is dedicated to the programs.
“I think we can do this,” Berliner said. “I think we should do this. We’d appreciate hearing from the county executive with respect to this issue.”
In 2009, as the rest of the state was beginning speed camera programs, the law was changed to allow speed camera revenue to be used by all public safety agencies, which Didone said meant a more diverse set of programs competing for the funds.
The $8 million the county made in speed camera revenues last fiscal year is an increase from the year before, Didone said.
Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer discussed a wide range of pedestrian and bicyclist issues at the hearing with Darrel Drobnich, the new chair of the county’s Pedestrian, Bicycle & Traffic Safety Advisory Committee. The Committee recommended the county update its 2005 bicycle facility master plan, create a first ever pedestrian master plan, create a countywide bicycle education program to let all types of road and sidewalk users know the rules and dedicate funding to police enforcement efforts.