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Md. Considering More Speed Cameras

Police and state transportation officials packed a Maryland General Assembly committee hearing yesterday to endorse a bill that would allow jurisdictions across the state to use cameras to ticket speeders. The bill also would allow their use in road construction zones.

Montgomery van (2).jpg Montgomery County introduced speed cameras last year. (Thomson)

State senators on the Judicial Proceedings Committee asked the same questions that many readers asked when the speed camera program began last year in Montgomery County: Why is this necessary? Are the cameras effective? What if you're not the driver of the vehicle speeding? Is this a revenue-raiser?

The measure (Senate Bill 269 and House Bill 364) has two parts: One would give local governments the right to create a speed camera system after holding a public hearing and enacting an ordinance. The other would allow their use in the roadway work zones.

The bills are backed by the governor, and were introduced by the Senate president and the House speaker, but the General Assembly has taken no action yet. (The District has a speed camera program with some different rules. Virginia has no speed cameras.)

Some similarities to the Montgomery County pilot program:
-- The camera locations must be publicized.
-- The camera zones must be marked by warning signs.
-- Residential neighborhoods and school areas are eligible.
-- The vehicle must be exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 10 mph to get photographed.
-- The fine notice goes to the vehicle owner.
-- Fines can be appealed.
-- Payments to the program's contractor cannot be based on the violations issued.

Some differences:
-- Roadways with a maximum speed of 45 mph would be eligible for cameras. (In the Montgomery program, the limit is 35 mph.)
-- A warning period of one year would precede ticketing.
-- Fines could go as high as $75. (The limit in Montgomery is $40.)
-- The measure allows the state to set up cameras in road work zones.

Many of the police and transportation officials who testified at the hearing in Annapolis said they wouldn't mind if the program lost money, because that would indicate it was working.

Speaking on behalf of the work zone cameras, State Highway Administrator Neil Pedersen said: "Our objective is to get people to slow down so we have safer work zones."

State Transportation Secretary John Porcari said the cameras are a "powerful safety tool."

"Work zones are the most dangerous places for workers and motorists," he said. "Sometimes, there's only an orange barrel between construction workers and vehicles moving at 65 mph or more."

But he added that 80 percent of accident victims in work zones are in the vehicles.

Stephen L. Oesch of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which studied the impact of the Montgomery cameras, said in his testimony that "Speeding is a major factor in motor vehicle crashes." It was a contributing factor in about a third of the crash deaths that occurred in 2006, he said. Nearly 90 percent of speeding-related fatalities occur on roads other than interstate highways, according to his testimony.

The House Environmental Matters Committee also is scheduled to hold a hearing on the measure today at 1 p.m.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 20, 2008; 8:44 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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I believe another factor in Maryland's thinking on cameras is the fact that multiple officers have been killed and injured in recent years during speed enforcement activities. Having officers on the side of the road, pointing and directing speeders to the shoulder for ticketing is dangerous. This arguement actually makes sense to me.

Posted by: Josey23 | February 20, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

So, why are German drivers safer even though vee have no speed limits on the Autobahn? Perhaps vee are better zan yoo.

Posted by: Autobahn | February 20, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Big Brother is watching in the People's Republic of Maryland.

Posted by: Bill | February 20, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Speed cameras in work zones are a great idea as long as they're only active when there's workers present. Many work zones are just normal highway after the day shift is finished, and enforcing reduced speeds at these times would be abusive.

Posted by: lanhampete | February 20, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

we don't need no stinkin' cops, we got cameras

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

These are pure revenue machines. The ones near our house are in front of a school that does not allow pedestrians, has no cross walks and issues plenty of tickets late at night or on saturday or sunday. My guess is that speed limits were set at 30 MPH assuming people would go about 40. But now everyone going forty has a pile of tickets. Either make the speed limits rational or take down these cameras. I'll vote against everyone who favors these hidden taxes, or move.

Posted by: North Potomac | February 20, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

In Germany there are expensive fines for cars that speed on the sections that have speed limits, strongly enforced using cameras, the tickets go to the owner of the vehicle, and there is no appeal.

Also, on the autobahn, slower cars stay to the right and move over when a faster car comes up from behind and flashes it lights. There is punishment for not obeying this. This is folowed and drivers do not have slower cars in the left lane like we do around here.

Posted by: Historian | February 20, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

This whole camera thing in Maryland is out of control. I went into Dunkin Doughnouts the other day and there were seven speeding cameras and three red light cameras goofing off in the parking lot. I mean my god, there are criminals zipping around montgomery county at 46 mph that need to be imprisoned!

Posted by: pj4521 | February 20, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Just great, what we really need are more people slamming their brakes whenever they see the cameras. *rolls eyes* I've encountered way too many idiots who creep along the current cameras at 20 or even 15 mph even though the limit is 35 (which means the camera won't start snapping until 45)

Posted by: dgc | February 20, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the posting that these are just revenue-generation devices. These officials are outright lying to us. I have seen speed cameras around Montgomery Village and they were NOT well marked. The notice they talk about is on the county website buried so deep that you'll never find it unless you dig and they don't give you specific addresses or map coordinates. I agree that speeders should slow down, but speed limits need to be reasonable. If road speeds are consistently too fast, then it's the road designer's fault -- not the drivers. THEY should be fined -- not us. They should therefore redesign or install traffic calming measures on roads with frequent speed problems rather than making money off of their own mistakes. I too will vote against any state representative who supports the proliferation of these devices.

Posted by: Germantown | February 20, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I hate the speed cameras, but, as a resident of an inner suburb in Maryland, I like and appreciate them too (even if I did just get nabbed by one.) People live on the big roads (Wisconsin, Connecticut, Georgia, Mass Ave, etc) and the cameras do help keeping the neighborhood road/commuter route balance from tipping completely into highway mode. I drive the stretch of Connecticut through Chevy Chase most frequently and the cameras are effective and alot less distracting/dangerous than the Chevy Chase police officers with the radar guns.

Posted by: wyb | February 20, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

we will always know that the donuts are safe

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

As soon as I have the right to question a speed or red light camera in a court of law, I'll support the use of one.

Posted by: Perry Mason | February 20, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

save donuts, abolish the police

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

If they used video rather than stills to actually show the offense you are committing then I think the cameras would be more palatable. I would actually prefer video to be used to on the roads where drivers are known to be aggressive.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 21, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Not only are the speed cameras about revenue-raising rather than safety, and not only do they invade privacy and raise serious "Big Brother" concerns (does anyone know for sure that they do not or could not easily be modified to monitor all traffic, not just those who are speeding), but they are seriously unreasonable. In the past, if a stream of traffic was flowing at a certain speed on a given road (presumably because that was a reasonable, safe speed for road conditions studies show motorists routinely almost automatically select) no one would get a ticket -- or perhaps 1 or 2 cars who were exceeding the speed of traffic as seen by an officer. With the cameras -- they are indiscriminate -- EVERY ONE of the cars in that stream might get a ticket -- especially when limits are lowered to 25 mph for no safety or engineering reason, but to raise the number of tickets generated, which may be hundreds per day from each machine.

Furthermore, the widely publicized notion that the cameras' locations can be found on the police website is just plain wrong. The website information is well out of date. I got a ticket from a "nonexistent" camera -- one not listed on the Montgomery speed camera website and in reply to my query the police department simply said that the website did not have to be accurate, and was a mere "courtesy" "not required by the law" -- so that it in their view they were not bound by it it could contain any misinformation that could mislead citizens about the number and/or location of cameras. This is simply unacceptable -- as they should abide by the terms of their own program and press releases --

These cameras and the heavy-handed, rigid, "gotcha"-style of law enforcement by robot, as well as the ominous privacy violations they may emobdy, symbolize, and portend, are a blight on our fine county and especially since they are without safety justification (The Insurance Institute study from January 2008 -- even if we took this obviously biased source at face value) did not mention ANY reduction in accidents or injuries at camera-monitored sites) and the County should ABOLISH cameras, and return to traditional methods of traffic enforcement using human beings with judgment and discretion and reason, not robots.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 25, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

are there speed cameras on interstate 95

Posted by: Anonymous | February 25, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

are there speed cameras on interstate 95 close to the baltimore beltway

Posted by: Anonymous | February 25, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

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