Stop sign cameras activated in D.C.

Photo: pasa47 via Flickr

WASHINGTON (WJLA){ }- The Metropolitan Police Department has officially launched its Street Safe campaign,{ }which aims to reduce traffic violations and, as a result, lower the number of crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives.{ }

The campaign uses an automated photo enforcement program to make the streets of D.C. safer for its drivers, bikers{ }and pedestrians.

The new cameras were activated on Saturday and will issue warnings to vehicles through Dec. 29. Actual tickets will be issued starting Dec. 30.{ }

Some drivers aren't too happy about the new cameras.

"When I see the sign that says there's a speed camera, then I'm busy instead of looking at the road. I'm looking for where's the speed camera," says Sallyann Sack. "Just think of all of the things that are going to distract us as we're driving down the road to look for this and look for that."

Many drivers think more enforcement is needed, but they're still uncomfortable with cameras and what they call too much "big brother."

Some also argue that traffic violations can be subjective. Can a robotic camera really tell the difference between a pedestrian using a crosswalk and someone simply trying to catch a cab?

"Who really has the time to go defend themselves against a ticket that really isn't valid?" asks Devon Stoney.

The Metropolitan Police Department says every citation is reviewed by human eyes.

“These infractions are reviewed in a three-tier system, so things like that will be taken into consideration before we actually issue a live ticket," says Asst. Chief Lamar Greene.

The 32 stop-sign cameras that will be active are in the following locations:

Here's what the new cameras will do:

- Gridlock enforcement units will help improve traffic flow by targeting cars "blocking the box" at intersections

- Portable stop sign enforcement units will reduce violations in residential neighborhoods

- Portable crosswalk enforcement units will enhance pedestrian safety at crosswalks around schools, parks and recreation centers

- Speed enforcement units will focus on intersections with known speeding problems

- Rules will be enforced on oversized and overweight commercial vehicles

In case drivers are confused about what's legal and what's not, MPD has produced several vehicles to explain the program. Here's one{ }that explains{ }what not to do at an intersection:

Check out more videos here.

Fines vary, depending on the infraction and the driver's speed. Drivers could pay $50 for blocking the box at an intersection or failing to stop at a stop sign. They could pay $250 for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, and as much as $300 for speeding 26 mph or faster through an intersection.

There are already plenty of traffic cameras in the city, but D.C.’s Assistant Police Chief says this new campaign is still very much needed.

"We've experienced reductions in traffic fatalities over the last ten years, so that would be my argument that this is definitely working," says Greene.