Maryland's House of Delegates approved legislation yesterday to allow speed cameras at limited locations in Montgomery County, opening the possibility that the state's largest jurisdiction will join the District and a handful of states that have recently adopted the technology.
The measure probably will face stiff opposition in the Senate and from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who in 2003 vetoed a measure that would have allowed the cameras around the state.
Proponents say the technology makes roads safer -- a particular concern in Montgomery, where traffic fatalities spiked last year and where pedestrians killed by automobiles typically account for more deaths in a year than homicides do.
The number of traffic deaths in Montgomery "is a problem that cries out for solution," said Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Montgomery).
During debate on the bill yesterday, opponents said speed cameras are an unjustifiable intrusion on motorists' privacy. Allowing the technology in Montgomery, they said, opens the door to speed cameras around the state.
"There is a real concern about how far we're going to be going in terms of using cameras instead of police officers," said Del. Gail H. Bates (R-Howard). "And all this [bill] appears to do is garner more money."
Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said the governor will not take a position on the bill that passed yesterday until it is in final form. But she said he has a "predisposed opposition" to the concept of speed cameras.
The bill would allow speed cameras only in Montgomery residential areas and school zones. Tickets could be issued only to motorists who drive at least 10 mph over the speed limit.
New York, Colorado, Oregon and Utah allow speed cameras in limited locations, according to legislative analysts. The District has used the devices for several years.
The Maryland House typically defers to local delegation votes on matters that affect a single jurisdiction -- as is the case with the Montgomery speed camera bill. But many opponents of the cameras voted against the bill, saying it will affect many people outside Montgomery.
There was a partisan tint to the vote, as many Republicans lined up against a bill approved by the largely Democratic Montgomery delegation.
The bill "impacts all of us as Marylanders," said Minority Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert), adding that "360,000 Marylanders who live outside of Montgomery County travel into and through Montgomery County every day."