Maryland fails to pass speed camera bill

| 4/9/2008

A bill in the Maryland statehouse that has died sought to authorize cameras to be posted to enforce speed limits in work zones. Another failed effort called for authorizing speed cameras solely in Prince George County.

As part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “hard-hitting” package of highway safety legislation, a bill called for allowing law enforcement to use cameras for speed enforcement on a statewide basis. The House and Senate approved the bill – SB269 – but were unable to reach agreement on its final form before the regular session ended.

Maryland already permits local jurisdictions to use cameras to enforce red-light traffic violations. The bill called for giving counties and cities the authority to place speed cameras on local streets. Cameras also could have been erected in work zones on expressways or controlled-access highways where the posted speed limit is at least 45 mph.

The two chambers were unable to agree on how fast motorists would have to be driving before they would be issued tickets. They also struggled with how revenue from the cameras would be distributed.

The O’Malley administration called for changes to be made in work zones because police have difficulty pulling over speeding drivers without causing additional traffic problems.

According to state figures, there were 34 fatalities in work zones during the most recent five-year period – compared to 28 in the previous five-year period. Injuries rose from 4,295 to 4,741 in the same two periods.

Supporters said the speed cameras encourage compliance with the law and saves lives by reducing collisions.

Opponents said speed cameras are an unwarranted intrusion. Others questioned the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe.

In addition to the effort to authorize cameras in work zones, another failed bill sought to authorize the use of speed cameras in Prince George County.

Montgomery County is the only place in the state that cameras are permitted. The enforcement tool can be used on streets in school zones or with speed limits of 35 mph or less.

The bill remained in a House committee when the session wrapped up, effectively killing it for the year. The Senate previously approved it.

The measure – SB963 – would have allowed authorities in Prince George County to post cameras. County police would have been limited to putting speed cameras up at 10 locations on highways with speed limits between 45 mph and 55 mph. Additional cameras could have been used on county roads with speed limits under 45 mph.

Speed cameras would have been prohibited on Interstate 95, Interstate 495, U.S. 50 or U.S. 301 in Prince George County.

Owners of vehicles found in violation would have faced $40 fines for driving more than 12 mph in excess of the speed limit.

Both pieces of legislation can be brought back for consideration during the 2009 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor