D.C. didn't ask Northam, Hogan to crack down on ticket scofflaws despite claims it did Bowser now says low-level conversations about a possible reciprocity deal on traffic camera tickets happened years ago, but it never got to the governors of Maryland and Virginia.
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D.C. didn't ask Northam, Hogan to crack down on ticket scofflaws despite claims it did

D.C. has many traffic cameras, but no reciprocity deal to ensure that Maryland and Virginia drivers actually pay them. Mike Mozart/Flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/20357673256/ hide caption

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Mike Mozart/Flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/20357673256/

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser never reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland to negotiate reciprocity for automated traffic camera tickets, despite a District government report — signed by the mayor and submitted to the D.C. Council last week — saying that said she did.

This week, Bowser said the original report has been corrected.

Under a traffic safety bill passed by the D.C. Council last year, Bowser was required to start having conversations with her counterparts in Maryland and Virginia about ticket reciprocity, and report back to lawmakers about her efforts to secure it.

The goal of ticket reciprocity among Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. is to ensure out-of-state drivers face consequences for speed, stop sign, and red light camera tickets — and change their driving behaviors. Reciprocity agreements exist between the three jurisdictions for tickets issued by police officers, but not by the city's many traffic cameras. That means the city has little recourse to pursue out-of-state drivers who rack up traffic camera violations and don't pay the fines.

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The original report submitted to the council last week said that "the Mayor reached out to the governors of Maryland and Virginia to discuss a reciprocity agreement which met the requirements of the Act. However, both jurisdictions declined to enter into a reciprocity agreement based on the determination that such an agreement would negatively impact the customer service of their motor vehicle offices."

A DCist/WAMU story on the report drew angry reactions on social media — and confusion from both Northam and Hogan's offices, who said they were not aware of any such conversations having happened.

The corrected D.C. report filed this week stepped back from the original claims, clarifying that in 2015 the District's Department of Motor Vehicle staff had "informal conversations" with counterparts in Maryland and Virginia related to regional enforcement reciprocity when the District passed its Vision Zero goal that aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injury by 2024. Apparently, those conversations weren't fruitful.

D.C. officials didn't readily explain the discrepancy beyond miscommunication.

"It's my understanding that staff-level conversations have occurred," Bowser said this week in response to questions about the initial report's errant claims. "I haven't personally had that conversation with the governors."

"We appreciate the clarification [from the D.C. government], and look forward to future conversations," said Mike Ricci, a spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan, said in an email. He added that the Motor Vehicle Administration is "open to future discussion."

Northam wasn't even in office in 2015, when the initial low-level staff conversations happened.

In its new report to the council, Bowser says the city will reach out to the regional Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to coordinate a meeting and discussion with the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia related to regional enforcement reciprocity. Meetings will begin this month and an updated report shared with the council by March 2022, more than six months after the council deadline.

Councilmember Charles Allen said he's frustrated with the Mayor not meeting the mandate.

"The delay in meeting the requirement in the law is frustrating and why Vision Zero can't be just a hashtag," he said in a statement. "There's no downside to working with Maryland and Virginia to develop a reciprocity that holds out-of-state drivers accountable for their actions, no matter which state it takes place in.

"We can't reasonably expect progress on making our streets safer if there are zero penalties for dangerous behavior. Let's stop dragging our feet and get this done."

Maryland and D.C. have speed cameras while Virginia has limited use of cameras near school zones and construction zones, though few if any, cameras have been established in Northern Virginia yet that we can tell.

"We think it's important that people pay their tickets," said Bowser in response to a question over whether she still wants to get a reciprocity deal done. "We think that reciprocity, including our drivers paying their tickets in Maryland and Virginia... is also important. I think that steady and quick enforcement helps in the compliance with all of our laws, including traffic safety."

This story was updated with comment from Councilmember Charles Allen.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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