Lamar Trowers saw the flash right away as he drove eastbound in the 2200 block of K Street downtown.
One of DC’s automated traffic enforcement cameras had tagged him for going 36 mph in a 25 mph zone. It was a $100 fine that Trowers never saw coming.
“Sometimes you can’t see the signs they’re obscured,” Trowers said of the yellow “photo enforcement” warning signs that are supposed to alert drivers a speed camera is nearby.
The WUSA 9 Special Assignment Unit discovered that it is an issue across the city. The only issue when it comes to how the District sets up its 87 speed cameras which brought in more than $99 million in fines in 2016.
The camera on K Street that caught Trowers brought in $11.8 million. Trowers is not the only one with questions about whether those speed cameras are there to save lives or just line the city’s pockets.
“People should comply with the law, but we shouldn’t set up a situation where people feel like they are being tricked,” said DC Councilmember Mary Cheh.
The WUSA 9 Special Assignment Unit spent days driving around DC to find out why people would feel that way. The investigative team inspected bigger, fixed location cameras and the smaller mobile cameras, which can be moved from place to place.
The first thing reporters noticed was brush blocking those bright yellow photo enforced signs that are supposed to warn drivers there’s a speed camera ahead.
The Special Assignment Unit found at least five speed cameras like that. From a totally covered sign on Military Road to partially obstructed ones on Good Hope Road, Hillcrest Drive, 19th Street and 14th Street.
But there was more.
A speed camera sign on South Dakota Avenue was facing the wrong direction. Away from the street. Meaning the only driver it could warn would be coming out of the driveway at that location, when speed would not be an issue.
WUSA 9 also found a speed camera on Blagden Ave in Northwest blocks from the location that’s listed on the DC police website. A list the police department publishes to be “transparent.”
Meanwhile, the only warning sign for the speed camera on I-295, sits right next to it. No time to slow down before getting ticketed there.
Then there’s the speed camera on Riggs Road. With a warning sign, behind the speed camera rather than in front of it. Once again, failing to properly warn drivers.
There also seemed to be no consistent guidelines with how many warning signs the city displays for each speed camera.
The Special Assignment Unit counted five warning signs for the speed camera on C Street near RFK.