Lawmakers May Open The Way for Cameras To Watch for Speeding
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Local governments throughout Maryland would be allowed to use roadside cameras to enforce speed limits under legislation being considered by Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration and some lawmakers.
Supporters say it would make roads safer. But critics say the speed cameras infringe on civil liberties.
The O'Malley administration is preparing a bill that would authorize the use of speed cameras in construction work zones, Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said yesterday. Meanwhile, some lawmakers and the Maryland Association of Counties are calling for a broader law that would also allow cameras near schools and in residential neighborhoods.
Last year, Montgomery County became the first Maryland jurisdiction to use speed cameras. Porcari said installing such cameras statewide is an important step toward stemming an increase in traffic fatalities. About a third of fatal accidents are caused by speeding motorists, according to state statistics.
"Sometimes we have only an orange cone between our highway workers and our motorists," Porcari told the House Environmental Matters Committee in testimony yesterday. "It is time to make sure we're doing all that we can to ensure highway safety."
O'Malley (D) believes using the cameras in work zones is a "no-brainer" and is considering broader legislation that would allow speed cameras in other locations, said his spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese.
"It's clearly a public safety issue to help local jurisdictions reduce speeding and aggressive driving in residential neighborhoods and in our school zones," Abbruzzese said.
Montgomery uses speed cameras in residential areas and near schools. The District also uses speed cameras. Virginia and Maryland both permit local jurisdictions to use cameras to enforce red-light traffic violations.
Critics say speed cameras represent an intrusion on civil liberties, serving more as a money-maker for local governments than as a safety measure.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick) called use of the cameras a "backdoor tax on the people of Maryland."
"It's simply wrong to say it's a safety issue," Mooney said. "It's a tax issue. It's a bad idea, and it's a wrong way for government to go. What's next? We'll put cameras in people's homes to catch criminal activity in people's homes?"
"It seems Big Brother-ish to me to have cameras doing law enforcement," House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert) said.