Maryland tightens law on speed cameras

Maryland has new rules on the use of speed cameras.

Maryland speed camera
A speed camera monitors traffic in a Silver Spring school zone. (Robert Thomson – The Washington Post)

The law that took affect Sunday changes what local governments are required to do in monitoring the enforcement systems and also how the cameras are deployed.

These are the key provisions:

  • A government must ensure that citations issued using cameras are sworn to by law enforcement officers.
  • The contractors responsible for the cameras can’t receive payments based on the number of tickets issued by their cameras.
  • A contractor must pay damages if more than 5 percent of the camera tickets are issued erroneously.
  • A school zone speed limit must be at least 20 mph to have a camera.
  • Before activating a speed camera, the local jurisdiction must ensure that each sign designating a school zone is near a sign warning of the speed camera’s use. When a camera is installed at a new location and the signs set up, the camera can issue only warnings for the first 15 days of operation.
  • A jurisdiction using speed cameras must designate an employee to act as a sort of ombudsman for people who complain about citations. If the employee determines the ticket was issued in error, the employee can void the citation. (This is in addition to the District Court review, which is still available to people who get speed camera citations.)
  • If this designated employee determines that a person didn’t receive notice of the violation because of an administrative error, then the employee can either resend the citation or void it.

The surest way of avoiding a $40 ticket is to obey the local speed limit. But the changes in Maryland law are likely to decrease the overall revenue governments take in from the speed cameras while raising their administrative costs.
Motorists are less likely to be surprised by a camera’s presence in a school zone, and will have a new avenue of appealing tickets they believe were issued in error.

Rules governing the speed cameras in the District are different. For example, D.C. law does not allow speeding drivers a buffer before the camera clicks. In Maryland, drivers must be going at least 12 miles over the posted speed limit before they are fined. Virginia does not allow speed cameras.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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