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SPEED CAMERAS – MORE ABOUT PICKING OUR POCKETS THAN SAFETY

Delegate Eric Bromwell Opposes Speed Cameras

I have never been a supporter of speed cameras. I always viewed them as more about getting revenue from automobile drivers than promoting safe driving.  It should be noted that in the fiscal year ending last June 30, speed cameras generated $77 million. That’s twice as much as the state collected in alcohol taxes.

Maryland is one of twelve states that uses speed cameras to issue speeding tickets. Forty-one communities in the state participate in the program. The three year old program has been criticized  by a recent audit for inadequate monitoring, using cameras without conducting sufficient testing to guarantee the accurate recording of a vehicle’s speed, and failure to have cameras calibrated independently. Auditors also found that in a pilot program from October 2009 to June 2010, only 44% of the violation photos were readable.  Despite official criticism, the program has continued to hand out erroneous tickets and rake in dollars by the millions.

Maryland law governing the speed camera program states: “if a contractor operates a speed camera system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor’s fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid.” Nevertheless, Baltimore County recently switched from a flat fee to a per-ticket contract. Officials have gotten around the law by a legal maneuver that reasons the local government is technically the operator of the speed cameras and the vendor is merely under contract to provide support services.  Obviously, any contract that puts a profit on issuance of tickets can expect no public trust in the system.

The law states that tickets can be issued to vehicles recorded going at least 12 miles over the speed limit.  The camera is supposed to snap two pictures a fraction of a second apart, showing the car, its license plate, and a stationary object.  Many of the photos are unreadable.  Many are issued erroneously attesting to false rates of speeds.  While Baltimore City’s system gives motorists two precise time-stamped photos as evidence of speeding, Baltimore and Howard Counties, as well as the State Highway Administration give motorists photos with times rounded off to seconds, proving only that the vehicle drove past the cameras, but not proving the vehicle was speeding. 

As for the program’s effect on curbing speeding, many law enforcement officials have noted that while the cameras make motorists reduce speed, many increase their speed as they leave the zone.

Legislation has been introduced to address the program’s inaccuracies,
absence of standard practices, as well as its inefficiencies. I will keep you posted on these legislative developments.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

FIFA February 20, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Do we need a correction Delegate Bromwell on your statement? "That’s twice as much as the state collected in alcohol taxes." Are you counting the extra 3% charged for alcohol as part of the sales tax as part of your revenues? Your number seems very low.
Tim February 21, 2013 at 04:24 AM
Pockets don't get picked if constituents adhere to the speed limits. Now, I agree with some of this - unreadable tickets should be thrown out. It doesn't surprise me that they get sent out anyway. Average working person has to take off to fight the ticket and get it thrown out. This costs way more money then just paying the ticket. Those who clearly are in violation get no sympathy from me. They're probably on their cell phone too while they are getting busted (because if they were actually paying attention to the road, they'd see the camera and slow down). Also of note- your statistics are 3 years old. That's a long time. As far as the phenomena of people going back to speeding outside of the range, that's more an indication of terrible behavior from drivers - has nothing to do with the cameras themselves. It's why the cameras were implemented to begin with.
NottinghamFamily February 21, 2013 at 11:17 AM
I have always been more on the side of a cautious driver. I have never had a speeding ticket after decades of driving. Have I ever sped? Sure I have, but not excessively. In a 65, I've been known to go 70-73 to keep up with traffic. I traverse the Ebenezer and 95 corridor regularly and watch my speed as people either ride up to my bumper since I'm doing 35 in a 30 or 60 in a 55. The ticket is not worth it to me nor the risk to my family or pedestrians, other vehicles and walkers. I'm that aggravating person who comes to a complete stop to let a family with a stroller cross at a pedestrian crosswalk, so I think you have to look at the cameras for what they are. I'm not pleased that the one on Ebenezer takes advantage of a downslope, but not every road is straight. If it keeps one kid from getting hit, then if you don't want a ticket, slow down.
Tim February 21, 2013 at 06:16 PM
NottinghamFamily - you aren't alone. I do the same things (" I'm that aggravating person who comes to a complete stop to let a family with a stroller cross at a pedestrian crosswalk") I'll speed when it's in proper context (example, maintaining flow of traffic on a highway/interstate) but the cameras will never, ever catch me speeding in a residential area. In fact, since getting my "new" car, I'm getting myself in the habit of manually overriding my automatic transmission and keeping the car in second gear when I'm in residential areas.
M. Sullivan February 21, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Geesh! You self-righteous goody two-shoes "I never speed" people make me sick! You are probably the same ones who travel exactly the speed limit in the fast lane, always stop for yellow lights, and refuse to turn right on red. These cameras have not done anything to reduce accidents in MD. They are simply an easy revenue source which most people don't have the time to fight. Everyone knows this. If these cameras are really about safety, put them on ALL streets and make the ticket $1000. You'll see some outrage then!
Paul February 21, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Other Tim, the speeding tickets don't keep your taxes down. The state and local jurisdictions waste that money just like they waste most of the other tax revenue. Have your taxes decreased in the last 10 years? The speed cameras are totally about picking pockets. If they were interested in safety, they would attach prohibitive fines and points to the tickets and suddenly everyone would do the speed limit in those areas. They like to work the surprise angle along I-95 at night where their picture taker truck sits in the dark along the road between the beltway and the White Marsh exit. I feel so much safer driving that stretch and watching drivers surprised by the big light flash slam on their brakes in heavy traffic!
Tim February 22, 2013 at 12:37 AM
M. Sullivan: Classic example of a terrible Maryland driver I see on the roads each and every day.
Tim February 22, 2013 at 02:24 PM
Evets - forget it, this 'passing lane' concept is lost on this state's drivers. Up in New York and New Jersey, MOST people actually use the left lane as it's intended. They don't swing around people to the right, like the crazy idiot drivers in this state does. They also use their turn signal (ok, for about 2 seconds at best) before cutting you off up there - unlike here in Maryland, where they just do it without a moment of warning. Sometimes you can read the aggression ahead of time, other times its out of the blue, though.
Tim February 22, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Other Tim: If everyone else drove as well as I did, I certainly could. Unfortunately, that's simply not the case. You also assume everyone in the center lane is going 60 mph. Poor assumption. Or they are swerving within their lane because they are on their cellphone (handheld). I could go on and on with the terrible driving habits of this county's drivers.
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 05:19 PM
As Other Tim is a proud self-admitted SLF (Speed Limit Follower) and I am sure he recognizes the impact of that following the law choice he is making which is his absolute right. I don't wish to blame a victim. Right or wrong doesn't matter in this case however, the result of hanging in the left lane at 65 MPH following the speed limit of a three lane highway frequently is; 1) tailgating, 2) lane change, 3) a dirty look, 4) a one finger salute, 5) lane change, 6) brake lights and sometimes 7) an accident. Nothing quite like proudly putting on your tombstone and other innocents, "But I was doing the speed limit".
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 06:26 PM
What I said above probably happens to you in the middle lane too I would guess? Except there they pass you on both the left and right side? Speed differential kills a lot of people. Have a good day.
Tim February 23, 2013 at 04:58 AM
FIFA - here's the thing. Six of your 7 results are the fault of the driver behind you. The seventh one - causing an accident, has some mutual accountability involved but is still primarily the blame of the driver behind. Just because many drivers are over-aggressive dickheads, doesn't mean you let them get their way. Wrong message to send. I mean, drivers are so bad, they can't see that, for example, the reason I'm going, lets say only 70 in the left lane is because I realize if the speeder behind me goes around me, he'll get NOWHERE because there's a backup/slow down a quarter mile away. I'm not talking about a scenario where someone is tooling around at 65 in the left lane and there's NO ONE ahead of them that would inhibit the speed at all. Yes, those people are problematic to some degree as well. Still, so many drivers don't drive with common sense.
FIFA February 23, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Tim, I am just stating facts as I believe them of what occurs, blame is for after the injuries heal. What I describe is true. Of course what also happens is the left lane hanger doing the speed limit also then doesn't pay attention and drops their speed 5 MPH below the speed limit further irritating the driver behind. Smells like a case of road rage brewing. Simple defensive driving and training suggests slower moving traffic keep right. Right or wrong is one thing, keeping my head off a tombstone is primary, blame is secondary in my opinion.

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