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As law enforcement officials in Maryland move forward with the deployment of speed cameras under a new law that takes effect today, there comes new evidence from Montgomery County that the initiative will prove effective.

In a report this week to the Montgomery County Council on that jurisdiction's  pioneering automated speed enforcement program, the Office of Legislative Oversight found that speeding had been cut in half and collisions had fallen 28 percent over one year in school zones and on residential streets where camera have been deployed.

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The report found that vehicle speeds in speed camera zones declined by 6 percent after a year in operation. The percentage of vehicles traveling over the speed limit fell from 25 percent to 13 percent.

Where at the start of the program more than 2 percent of drivers in targeted zones were traveling 11 mph or more over the limit – the minimum for issuing a ticket under the Montgomery program – by the end of the year fewer than 1 percent were doing so.

The speed cameras were especially effective in reducing crashes that resulted in injuries and fatalities – cutting them from 206 to 126 for a reduction of 39 percent. That's 80 people spared death or injury in one county in one year under highly restricted rules.

Meanwhile, the study undercut one of the most common objections to cameras – that they would increase the number of rear-end collisions because drivers would suddenly mash on their brakes as they came into the enforcement zones. In fact, the report found an 18 percent decline in rear-end crashes within a half-mile of the camera sites.

Fact  such as these are unlikely to sway ideologues or hard-core speeders, but they provide solid support for those who believe modern technology should be enlisted in the fight to  cut needless highway carnage.

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