In Maryland, Speed Cameras are currently only authorized in Montgomery County, on roads with speed limits of up to 35mph with fines of up to $40. Both fixed-pole cameras and mobile camera vans are used. We are maintaining a map of known speed camera locations. The state law which governs Montgomery County, speed cameras was passed in 2006 over the veto of former governor Ehrlich. Maryland Transportation article 21-809 defines the terms under which the cameras can be used. Montgomery county signed a contract which pays the company which owns, maintains, processes violations from, and operates the cameras, ACS State and Local Solutions, a portion of each ticket issued, in violation of a provision of that law.
Each year since then legislation has been introduced into the general assembly which would have authorized an expansion of speed cameras. In 2008, Governor O’Malley’s Speed Camera bills were passed by both houses, and only failed to pass because the two houses failed to resolve minor differences (about money) between the two bills. Some of the changes in those bills included :
- Allow statewide use of speed cameras
- Allow speed cameras on most 55mph freeways in Prince Georges County.
- Allow speed cameras in temporary “highway work zones” (an amendment which would have required that there be at least one worker present was rejected).
- Change the max speed limit where speed cameras can be used in “residential areas” to 45 mph
- (House Version) increase the maximum fine from $40 to $75.
- Change the definition of “speed camera operator” to “a representative”, meaning that the accused would no longer have the right to request a physical camera operator appear in court and potentially expose system or procedural flaws. It would also have potentially grandfathered in Montgomery County’s per-ticket contract arrangement.
- Under the new law, counties would not have been required to report back on the success or failure of their programs until 2012.
The Governor O’Malley has pledged to introduce similar statewide speed camera legislation in 2009. Meanwhile both PG and Howard county delegations have drafted bills which would authorize cameras in those counties individually.
Other Photo Enforcement
Red light cameras have been in use in several maryland counties, including Montgomery County, Howard County, Baltimore, and Frederick. In most cases fines are $75-$100. In both Baltimore and Montogomery County there have been cases where traffic lights with photo enforcement were caught having shorter than standard amber light times, which tends to significantly increase both revenue and accident rates.
Prince Georges County is authorized to use photo enforcement at railroad crossings, with $100 fines. The Montgomery County delegation had drafted legislation to the 2009 General Assembly to authorize railroad crossing cameras in that county as well.
What Can You Do?
If you do not approve of speed cameras and other types of photo enforcement being used in Maryland, here are several things you, as a concerned citizen, can do which are all legal and within your rights:
1) Join Us
Contact us if you want to help stop this injustice and FRAUD being commited against Maryland drivers. We would especially like to hear from anyone willing to take an active role heading off the latest round of legislation, and helping with petitions, protests, and public events. This can have a significant impact against the spread of automated traffic enforcement.
2) Contact your State Representatives and tell them that you do not wish to see the use of speed cameras in your state.
Dear Delegate/Senator ____,
I am writing to you to express my opposition to the expansion of speed cameras in the state of Maryland. I believe these devices are not appropriate for a free society which values privacy and civil liberties. They harm the legal presumption of innocence and the right of the accused to face their accuser. Because they can be used for revenue generation, they are certain to be abused and used in increasingly aggressive and sneaky ways to maximize that revenue. This will create an environment which will make ordinary drivers uncomfortable.
In 2008 several bills nearly passed in the General Assembly which would have expanded speed cameras to the entire state and introduced them to many more roads including freeways. Efforts were also made to remove some important restrictions on the system. This kind of creeping expansion will eventually subject Maryland drivers to a standard which I would not be comfortable with. The existing system in Montgomery County has even been shown to violate either the letter and/or spirit of the law by paying its speed camera contractor a per-ticket fee. I find this unacceptable, and believe that this deceptive and dishonest behavior by local officials at such an early stage demonstrates that we cannot trust that other important restrictions will be respected in the future, even if new restrictions are added.
I do not want to see legislation authorizing ANY expansion of speed cameras. The Maryland government should focus on increasing penalties against drunk and habitually reckless drivers, and on the use of less intrusive traffic calming measures.
3) Montgomery County residents, write to the Montgomery County Council and tell them you don’t want the cameras on the roads you drive every day.
NOTE: It is unlikely that *any* members of the Montgomery County council will be sympathetic or responsive to complaints about camera. Anti-speed-camera emails sent to the county executive are all forwarded to the Montgomery County Police Automated Traffic Enforcement unit. Any letter sent to the county should include a statement to the effect that “I am writing this letter to my elected representatives, not the police, because this is a political matter regarding public policy and laws which are likely to be changed in the near future.”
4) Sign our ONLINE PETITION. We will be sending this to the general assembly and local officials to let them know that there are many who oppose these cameras, and that expanding this system will cost them votes in 2010.
5) Speak out. Writing letters to the editor in you local papers, telling your own personal views and stories, is one way to get the message out to many other people.
Camera advocates use the term “safety” to deflect from the profit motives of the system. The safety benefits of these cameras have yet to be proven, and there are other less intrusive “traffic calming devices” which could be used instead. Camera advocates will try to suggest that anyone who opposes these cameras either opposes safety or just wants to be able to violate the law. However the Constitution is the highest law in the US, and the government needs to respect both the spirit and the letter of that document. Responsible citizens, who value civil liberties and privacy rights, or who realize that drivers need flexibility to make the split second decisions required to drive safety, have a right to oppose these devices in good conscience.
6) Don’t feed the monster! It has been demonstrated in other areas that when automated ticket revenues dry up, the cameras disappear as well. You can prevent the government and their contractors from making a profit off of you by:
Know the locations of red light and speed cameras in the areas you drive. In Maryland these locations are required to be posted online, and there are now databases which attempt to catalog photo enforcement locations.
Stay alert. If you see “Photo enforced” signs, take their word for it and watch your speed closely. Currently, in Maryland, cameras are triggered at 10mph over the limit. However remember that your speed will tend to drift up when you’re not watching the speedometer closely, and that this margin is set lower in DC. Montgomery county has placed some cameras shortly after the point where speed limits are reduced in order to maximize tickets.
7) If you get a ticket, fight it.
You can challenge a citation in court. If you do, be sure to request that the operator appear and to take the time to prepare a proper case. Even if you are unsuccessful it reduces the county’s profit margin on the citation. We want to hear from people who are challenging citations, since the information we gain from court challenges can reveal defects in the system and improve the chances of other legal challenges.
Another way to fight a citation is what we call a “poison pill”. Pepper every government entity even remotely related to photo enforcement with letters, emails, and phone calls. Reading and responding to those messages will tell the county and state that one of their citizens has been made “very unhappy”, and also cost them more than their profit margin on the citation.
YOU can make a difference on this issue. Ultimately, it is the people who will decide whether Big Brother or liberty prevails in Maryland, but only if YOU are prepared to act.
This factsheet provided courtesy of StopBigBrotherMD.Org