Maryland bills would use cameras to deter speeders

| 3/19/2008

If Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley gets his way, cameras would be posted to enforce speed limits in certain work zones throughout the state. Several other bills before lawmakers also would green light the use of speed cameras.

As part of the governor’s “hard-hitting” package of highway safety legislation, a bill in the state’s Senate would allow law enforcement to use cameras for speed enforcement on a statewide basis.

Maryland already permits local jurisdictions to use cameras to enforce red-light traffic violations. Sponsored by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, the bill would give counties and cities the authority to place speed cameras on local streets. Cameras also could be erected in work zones on expressways or controlled-access highways where the posted speed limit is at least 45 mph.

Violators found to be traveling in excess of 10 mph over the speed limit would get warnings for the first 12 months. After that, they would face up to $75 fines. No points would be added to driver’s licenses.

Officials with the O’Malley administration have said changes need 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 say the speed cameras encourage compliance with the law and saves lives by reducing collisions.

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

Miller’s bill – SB269 – is awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor. The House version – HB364 – is in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

In addition to the governor’s effort to authorize cameras in work zones, other local governments are calling on legislators to pass local bills authorizing use of speed cameras.

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

Sen. James Robey, D-Elkridge, has introduced a bill – HB1198 – that would allow Howard County to post cameras. County police would be limited to 10 cameras.

The bill includes a five-year sunset date. Legislators would be required to renew it.

Violators would face $75 fines for driving more than 10 mph in excess of the speed limit on highways with posted speeds up to 45 mph.

Similar rules are sought for Prince George County. Three bills would authorize county and local police to adopt identical camera enforcement rules to Montgomery County.

With rules already in place, two more bills in Montgomery County would tweak rules there. One bill – HB831 – would require signs to be posted at least 500 feet from the location of signs increasing or decreasing speed limits.

The other bill – HB829 – would specify that vehicle owners mailed citations for speeding could not be issued additional citations for speeding at the same location unless five days had passed since the first citation was mailed.

Both bills are in the House Environmental Matters Committee. The Prince George County bills are in the same committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor