Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 20, 2014

Legislation could tighten speed camera requirements

Provisions could increase fairness to motorists

CUMBERLAND — Several bills dealing with tightening requirements for automated speed limit enforcement, including the use of speed cameras in work zones, are being considered by the Maryland General Assembly. All the bills would place stricter requirements for the use of the cameras and make other provisions designed to increase the fairness of the automated systems to motorists.

Speed cameras on Interstate 68 have nabbed motorists for months since being installed in the work zone bridges over Kelly Road and Patterson Avenue, a project that includes a complete replacement of the driving surfaces, as well as additional work to extend the life of the nearly 50-year-old structures. The cameras are still being used in the work zone, according to the State Highway Administration. The aim of using the cameras is to help protect workers at the construction sites, state officials have said.

The cameras are used not only by the state, but by some local jurisdictions to enforce speed laws.

The latest numbers for the I-68 camera running through December 2013 show what the cameras can do. SHA statistics show 11,275 citations were issued through speed camera enforcement from June through the end of December, the latest month for which statistics were available. Drivers speeding by 12 or more mph over the 55 mph speed limit are mailed a $40 civil citation.

One of the House members calling for reform is Del. Jon Cardin. He has introduced a bill calling for certain requirements on the speed cameras, including a provision that would hold speed camera operators responsible for erroneously issued tickets. The fine for erroneously issued tickets would be $1,000.

Cardin said, “It is time to seriously evaluate the future of these programs statewide. Until we can audit each program and have the ability to hold jurisdictions and speed camera operators accountable, I think we should suspend the use of speed cameras entirely.” Cardin said the error rate on the cameras in Baltimore is more than 10 percent.

Cardin’s bill would require a verifiable double time-stamped imaging system for each ticket so that the accuracy of the camera could be better contested. The bill would also permit organizations “representing the interests of motorists such as AAA or speed camera watch dog organizations the ability to sue a jurisdiction on behalf of their constituency for speed camera abuses.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic supports House Bill 929, another reform bill. Many of the provisions are similar to Cardin’s bill. Among the provisions are a requirement that a violation must be signed by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, rather than an agent or employee of a law enforcement agency. The bill would also prohibit contractors who administer a speed monitoring system from receiving their fee on a per-ticket basis, according to AAA.

Government revenues could decrease because of more restrictions on the use of the cameras and fewer citations being issued if the restrictions on the use of the camera are adopted, according to a fiscal and policy note prepared for HB 929 by the Department of Legislative Services.

Under the current program on I-68, violators are mailed the citations along with accompanying images showing and detailing alleged violations. Violators may also view the photographs on the website by entering their citation or violation number.

Violations are mailed no later than 14 days after the violation occurs for registered Maryland vehicles. Out-of-state violators are mailed citations no later than 30 days after the violation.

Failure to pay the fine or contest the violation can result in additional fees and penalties. Any alleged violation may also be appealed.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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