By the middle of next week, vehicles of drivers going too fast through Maryland highway construction zones could be in pictures. No, it isn’t a Hollywood promotion for the “Fast and the Furious” movie series. A new state law takes effect Thursday, Oct. 1, allowing speed cameras to be posted in construction zones.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has voiced concern about focusing solely on the speed of vehicles in work zones to solve safety worries.
The new law authorizes the cameras in works zones on expressways and controlled-access highways throughout the state where the speed limit is at least 45 mph. However, roads on the Eastern Shore are not affected by the law. The enforcement tool is also authorized in school zones.
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.
Currently, 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.
As of Thursday, pictures can be snapped of vehicles traveling at least 12 mph in excess of the speed limit. For the first 30 days, violators of the new statewide law will get off with only a warning. After that, fines up to $40 will be handed out to the registered owners.
Local governments will have to decide whether they want to use the cameras. In addition to other localities, Baltimore County has signed on to install the cameras. Prince George County is reviewing a bill to do the same there.
Profit that any municipality receives from camera-generated tickets will be limited to 10 percent of the town or county’s total revenue. That money could be used solely for local safety programs. Anything left will be routed into the state’s 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 intended solely to keep people safe.
Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said the state of Maryland would be better served to focus attention on other aspects of driving in work zones rather than solely focusing 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 “catchall” for highway safety.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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