Speed Camera Rules Vary, And Are Changing
I promised readers during Monday's online discussion that I would publish some of their questions and comments that I couldn't get to during the chat. One of our topics was the speed camera bill that cleared the Maryland General Assembly, and it drew this comment:
"I never liked Speed Cameras: Mostly because of my aversion to Big-Brotherism. But I do think they're unfair to a degree. First, they are obviously a sea change in driving and traffic enforcement which to me means that the rules of the game should be defined. I think that it should be publicly available knowledge as to what speed triggers the camera. And I don't mean 'Oh, everyone knows it's 10 mph or more.' And ultimately I see no reason why it shouldn't be the posted speed limit.
Back to me: The programs work differently depending on who passed the law. In the District, drivers can get a ticket for any speed over the limit. D.C. police won't say how the cameras are set. When Maryland passed the pilot program now operating in Montgomery County, the law was written more conservatively.
The cameras could be placed only in residential areas or in school zones where the speed limit is 35 mph or lower. Signs must warn that cameras are in use. The fine was set at $40, and the money has to go for traffic safety. A vehicle had to be going more than 10 mph over the speed limit to draw a citation. (So you have to exceed the posted speed limit by about a third.)
The new Maryland bill, SB 277, authorizes camera use statewide but imposes some of the same restrictions. It raises the bar on speed so that a driver now will have to be going more than 12 mph over the limit to get a citation. Camera use in school zones will be limited: They may operate from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays.
To address the commenter's concerns: The rules of the game are, If you're driving above the posted speed limit, you're speeding, which is against the law. Anybody who has a driver's license is supposed to know that. But people are breaking the law because they know they'll usually get away with it.
The Maryland law will let people get away with it, up to 11 mph over the speed limit. That's got less to do with law enforcement and safety than with politics.The cameras are controversial, because drivers don't like to get caught breaking the law. So the bill's path to passage included this big buffer. A case could be made to tighten that, but it will have to wait for another year.
April 15, 2009; 6:54 AM ET
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