Maryland bill would allow speed cameras in work zones

| 3/9/2009

Speed cameras could be posted in highway construction zones throughout Maryland if legislation at the statehouse is signed into law. Local efforts to set up cameras also have been offered.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association voiced concern about focusing solely on the speed of vehicles in work zones to solve safety worries.

With the backing of Gov. Martin O’Malley, the plan calls for authorizing the cameras in work zones on expressways and controlled-access highways throughout the state where the speed limit is at least 45 mph.

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

The automated cameras snap pictures of vehicles traveling over the posted speed limit. A ticket is mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Maryland already permits local jurisdictions to use cameras to enforce red-light traffic violations. The statewide bill – SB277 – would hand out fines of up to $40 to the registered owners of vehicles caught on camera traveling at least 12 mph in excess of the speed limit.

A similar version failed passage during the 2008 regular session because the House and Senate were unable to reach agreement on its final form.

The two chambers couldn’t 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.

This year’s version would require speed camera profits to be used solely for local safety programs. Anything left after two years would be routed into the state general fund.

Supporters say the speed cameras encourage compliance with the law and save lives by reducing collisions.

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

Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said the state of Maryland would be better served to focus their attention on other aspects of driving in work zones rather than focusing solely on speeding.

“Speeding in work zones isn’t what actually causes accidents. Driving carelessly or recklessly is what causes accidents. That is where the focus of enforcement should be,” Spencer told Land Line.

Spencer also said it is unrealistic to build speed cameras up to be a “catch all” for highway safety.

In addition to the effort to authorize cameras in work zones, officials in Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Howard counties have offered separate proposals to set up cameras if the statewide effort falls short.

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.

Owners of vehicles found in violation would face $40 fines for driving more than 10 mph in excess of the speed limit.

The local measures would mandate that speed camera profits be used only on pedestrian and traffic safety improvements.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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