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Motorists Sue Over DC Speed Camera Trap
Federal class action lawsuit filed over Washington, DC speed camera operating behind a single, hard to see speed limit change sign.

295 photo from Google Maps
One of the District of Columbia's most controversial speed cameras has become the subject of a federal class action lawsuit. Motorists Teresa and Reginald Matthews are suing the District and Mayor Muriel Bowser over their use of an automated trap on Interstate 295 operated by private vendor Verra Mobility (formerly ATS). The camera is positioned at a spot on the interstate highway where the speed limit suddenly drops from 50 MPH to 40 MPH. A lone sign on the far right side of the road is the only hint that the area is part of a "work zone" with a lowered speed limit.

"Plaintiff has never observed any construction, maintenance, and/or utility work in that area at any time, despite traversing that area on an almost daily basis for the past five years," attorney Danielle L. Perry wrote in the complaint.

The complaint also notes that the single sign cannot be seen from the far left or middle lanes if a large truck or other vehicle is driving in the right lane. Nonetheless, since the city classified the area as a work zone, fines are doubled. So the ticket issued to Teresa Matthews after her Cadillac SUV was photographed traveling 52 MPH at the location in November jumped to $200. The fine would have doubled once more to $400 if she had not paid it within thirty days.

"The doubled civil fine was unlawful and unconstitutional, in that no ticket should have been issued for traveling fifty-two MPH in a fifty MPH area; this area on DC 295 does not constitute a work zone as defined in the DC Code, and the alleged work zone was not established in accordance with the mandatory requirements of the DC Code in that it lacked multiple signs or notices," Perry wrote. "The imposition... of double civil fines for automated traffic enforcement violations ocuring in this alleged work zone is done to raise revenue for defendants and not for the purpose of promoting public safety."

The suit alleges the city is violating the Eighth Amendment protection against excessive fines. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich gave the city until April 6 to respond to the charge.

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