Effective Wrist-slapping on Connecticut Avenue

About a year ago, I heard an interview on NPR with Jim Webb in his role of prison reformer. He pointed out that less severe punishments more consistently applied were much more effective than long sentences that applied to only a few.

Seemed to make sense to me. And now I have proof, thanks to the police of Montgomery County, MD (my current home, and as an aside, a great place to live).

Connecticut Ave. is a major artery heading into DC. I take it all the time. A few months ago, I received in the mail a lovely photo of the back of my car tooling along Connecticut in Chevy Chase, MD, just at the border of DC, and a speeding ticket for $35. Turns out, although this is a six-lane road, the speed limit for that stretch of Connecticut is 30 mph.

I wasn't the only one. When I go down that stretch now, traffic slows almost ostentatiously slows to 25 mph. Yet there is always someone unfamiliar with the traffic situation who starts weaving in and out, and POP goes the flashbulb, every single time. Apparently, despite people's irritation at the cameras, they have been effective at reducing accidents.

As unrealistic as the speed limit is there, it is clear how much more effective small but widely applied punishments can be. No one plays a guessing game of whether the police are around, or how far above the speed limit they can go without attracting notice. It also strikes me as more fair to have speeding tickets given to everyone who speeds.


  1. You have hit a problem with traffic cameras without even knowing it. Normally, speed limits are set so that most people will naturally travel under the limit (IIRC, the standard is 85% naturally travel at our under the limit). But with speed cameras, and giving motorists some tolerance, because neither cars nor cameras are perfectly accurate, there aren't that many tickets issued when the speed limits are reasonable. So, in the interest of collecting revenue, speed limits are set much lower than otherwise makes sense. One winds up with 6 lane roads with 30 MPH limits. And as you observe, that is rather unrealistic, unless you are a local government who wants to pick up some cash from travelers.

  2. Having travelled every day on Ct. Ave to my home in CC, I feel your pain. I just loved it when we had our first blanket of very light snow and watched as the Saudis and other persons not familiar with those conditions drove as wildly as ever. It was worth every delay. :)

  3. Uncle Jim, are you still there in CC? I'm in Silver Spring, and I love it here.

  4. Elizabeth, No. We now reside, (for better or worse two blocks from Dan) in Maine and we are retired from Government service. We have such wonderful memories of being there in the DC area. We loved CC, and also resided in Roslyn at the Belvedere. We loved the excitement of government and challenges placed upon us by the Clinton/Gore administration and just hated the Bush years. My partner (40 years last month) was a national director, while I a mere servant of the people slothed by. :) My all-time favorite boss resides in SS. I never argued so much with anyone and enjoyed it as when I was arguing with him... an all-around great person. I so miss Morton's in Georgetown! (Except for the cigars).

  5. Just took my parents to Morton's in Georgetown. I totally love it here. Great people, great parks, lots to do, lots of ways to get away from it all.

    And mazel tov on 40 years!