Automated Speed Enforcement FAQs
What is the goal of Automated Traffic Enforcement?
The goal of the District's Automated Traffic Enforcement program is straightforward: to reduce traffic violations and, as a result, decrease crashes, prevent injuries and save lives. Over the past few years, traffic safety cameras have contributed to dramatic reductions in red-light running at the intersections where cameras are operational and in aggressive speeding in photo radar enforcement zones. Fewer violations should translate into lower crash and injury rates among both drivers and pedestrians. The cameras have the added benefit of enhancing traffic safety while promoting community policing.
Since the cameras provide coverage throughout the District, they allow the Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) to be more consistent, more strategic and more efficient in our enforcement of traffic regulations—a top priority with residents. The MPDC achieves these safety benefits without having to dedicate extra police resources to enhance traffic enforcement. Instead, police officers can devote their time to other priorities, including focused law enforcement, neighborhood problem solving, and crime prevention.
How are cameras used to enforce speeding violations?
Radar equipment detects vehicles that are exceeding a threshold speed above the speed limit, then triggers a camera which is linked to the radar equipment. A photograph is taken of the rear of the vehicle. The date, time, speed, location and tag number are recorded. Based on the tag number, a Notice of Infraction (NOI) is mailed to the vehicle's registered owner. More details on the technical aspects of photo radar.
Does the American public support the use of photo radar?
According to a nationwide survey of 6,000 drivers aged 16 and older, more than 7 in 10 drivers thought it was a good idea to use photo enforcement devices to reduce speeding and running red lights and stop signs (1997, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). A higher number of drivers supported photo devices in locations where crashes frequently occur (4 out of 5) and in school zones (9 out of 10).
Where are the radar units located, and how were the sites selected?
To maximize the program's flexibility and impact, the Metropolitan Police Department is using both mobile photo radar units and fixed-location cameras. Locations throughout the District of Columbia are selected by the MPDC based on recent incidents of speeding-related crashes and fatalities, their proximity to school zones and other places where children or other vulnerable populations are present, and known sites of chronic speeding. The deployment of the units is at the sole discretion of the MPDC. Photo radar enforcement zones are published on the MPDC website. Residents are encouraged to contact the MPDC to recommend a photo radar location in their neighborhood.
Do the cameras photograph every vehicle that passes by them?
No. The photo radar system takes photographs of only those vehicles that exceed the program's speeding threshold (although the system does collect basic data about the speed of every vehicle that passes through the radar beam, it photographs only violators). The MPDC uses photo radar to target the most serious and dangerous offenders and to issue citations to vehicles demonstrating disregard for public safety according to District of Columbia laws and regulations. The system operators are radar-certified police officers, working in an overtime capacity.
Will warning tickets be issued?
Warning tickets at new sites are issued during an initial 30-day period of public education for that location. After that, actual NOIs will be issued.
What do I do if I receive a ticket in the mail?
A ticket issued through the District of Columbia's Automated Traffic Enforcement Program is the same as any other moving ticket issued within the city limits. You may pay the fine, which is an admission of guilt; adjudicate the citation by mail, or request a hearing. Specific instructions are included on the back of each NOI that is mailed. Failure to respond to the ticket, either by paying the fine or requesting a hearing within the specified time frame, can result in additional fees and penalties. Telephone or mail responses are encouraged.
Individuals may now view their violation images online (requires ticket number and unique personal identification number provided on the mailed citation).
Individuals may also pay their tickets online, through the Department or Motor Vehicle website.
What if I wasn't driving my car?
Vehicle owners who receive a ticket in the mail must provide the full name, address and driver's license number of the person who had care, custody, or control of their vehicle at the time of the infraction. Directions are included on the back of each ticket mailed. If you car was stolen at the time of the infraction and you reported the offense to the police, any photo enforcement tickets will be voided.
If I request a hearing, what can I expect?
Hearings are conducted by an impartial adjudicator who is an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Adjudication Services. At the hearing, you will be presented with photographs of the violation, a template showing the targeted vehicle, and (in the case of tickets issued from a mobile camera) a copy of the certified log prepared by the officer who was operating the photo radar vehicle at the time of the infraction. The log shows that the unit was set up, tested and operating properly at the time of the violation. The police officer does not appear at the hearing. Motorists have the opportunity to present any information that challenges or mitigates the violation. After reviewing the evidentiary package and the motorist's information, the adjudicator will render a decision.
What if I have specific questions about a ticket I received?
Call the Mayor’s Call Center at 311 or (202) 737-4404.
What are the penalties for speeding?
Fines for speeding range up to $250, depending on how many miles per hour over the posted speed limit the vehicle was traveling. No points are assessed for photo-enforced violations in the District.
What is the District law authorizing automated traffic enforcement?
The law authorizing automated traffic enforcement in the District of Columbia can be found in the DC Official Code (Division VIII, Title 50, Subtitle VII, Chapter 22, Subchapter 5).