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Montgomery County turns off red-light camera responsible for $350K in fines

Montgomery County turns off red-light camera responsible for $350K in fines. (ABC7/ Christ Papst)

Montgomery County has turned off a red-light camera following a 7 ON YOUR SIDE I-Team investigation. But, calls have now surfaced for the county to reimburse drivers for thousands of tickets.

The camera is located at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Seminary Road. Over the last year-and-a-half, it has issued nearly $350,000 in fines, which some say should all be paid back because of how the camera is timed.

"The only thing that is appropriate here is justice," said Montgomery County resident and motorist, Peggy Lucero. "Anything short of that is illegal, ludicrous and wrong. Wrong!"

Last month, Lucero was turning left off Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County onto Seminary Road in her dark blue Toyota. A short time later, she got a $75 ticket courtesy the intersection’s red-light camera, which Lucero says is unfair.

"What this thing has done is make criminals out of people who have done nothing wrong. I didn't do anything wrong, here," cried Lucero.

A-year-and-a-half ago, the Maryland State Highway Administration changed its policy mandating yellow light times be a minimum of three and a half seconds. So, the I-Team grabbed a stopwatch. Turns out, the turn arrow that caught Lucero is just under three seconds. Montgomery County's Department of Transportation's had 19 months to retimed the light. It hasn't, yet this camera continues to issue tickets.

"I think the county should refund all the tickets since the standard was changed," stated Ron Ely, of the Maryland Drivers Alliance.

And it's a lot of tickets. The I-Team learned this light is one of the county's most profitable issuing 4611 tickets for $346,000 between July of 2015 and September of 2016.

"I have a concern that they were delaying making the change because they didn't want to disrupt the flow of tickets from this camera,” added Ely.

The I-Team contacted Montgomery County, the Department of Transportation and the Police Department. No one would go on camera to discuss this camera. But we did get some email statements.

"The current 3.0 second timing meets Federal guidelines." wrote Venu G. Nemani, with the Division of Traffic Engineering and Operations.

Patrick Lacefield at the County Executive's office added, "Avoiding a ticket is simple. Do not enter an intersection when the light has turned red.”

While Sergeant Rebecca Innocenti with the Police Department stated, "Even though the intersection was within State and Federal guidelines [we] decided to discontinue red-light enforcement of those lanes until the timing could be adjusted."

But Lucero says that is not enough. "This should be voided. There is no way on the planet that this fair. The program is not deployed within the law. More people need to be aware of that and challenge these tickets."

ABC7 did press the county concerning refunding drivers for fines over the last 19 months. But no comment was provided.

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