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Watch Your Speed in Maryland Work Zones

The Maryland law that expands the use of speed cameras takes effect on Thursday. While drivers won't see cameras in any more neighborhoods than they do today, the state is ready to go with the part of the program that allows cameras in highway work zones.

These are the initial zones:
-- I-95 between Routes 198 and 216. That's the Intercounty Connector construction area.
-- I-695 at Charles Street in Baltimore County
-- I-95 between I-895 and White Marsh Boulevard in Baltimore County.

In those work zones, or in others where the state will set up cameras, owners of vehicles can be fined $40 if the vehicles exceed the speed limit by 12 mph or more.

The state says it will place large signs in advance of work zones to alert drivers that cameras are in use. You also will see a unit displaying the posted speed limit and the passing drivers' speeds. Then inside the zone, there will be a van or SUV that contains the cameras and the monitoring equipment.

But for at least the first 30 days of this pilot program, only warning notices will be issued.

The fines are civil fines. No points are assessed. The money from the fines will be used to cover the costs of Maryland's work zone safety program. If there's anything left over during the first three years, it will go into an account that funds police roadside enforcement.

It's difficult to set up a traditional police enforcement in the limited space of a work zone. Already a Maryland state trooper has been injured in the ICC work zone. His vehicle was hit while he was helping with one of the first lane closures for the project on southbound I-95.

But most people who get hurt in these areas are the drivers passing through. Four of five people injured or killed in work zone crashes are drivers or passengers. Even when workers are not present, the areas can be dangerous because lanes are shifted or narrowed, or the pavement is uneven.

Sounds reasonable to me. It's a program that targets dangerous areas. The fines won't kill anybody, and the presence of the cameras -- judging by the Montgomery County experience over the past two years -- may save some lives. What do you think?

By Robert Thomson  |  September 30, 2009; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  Driving , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, speed cameras  
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