The Maryland General Assembly recently passed a bill that would allow local governments to use photo radar to enforce speed limits. As the mayor of Rockville, I hope Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signs this bill.
For too long, speed enforcement has been a cat-and-mouse game between the growing numbers of habitual speeders and police who can't be everywhere at once. Every day, Rockville residents are put at risk by drivers who flout traffic laws.
Consider Nelson Street, a residential street with a speed limit of 25 mph. In one 24-hour period during which the city sampled traffic data, more than 3,600 vehicles traveling on Nelson Street were going more than 10 mph over the speed limit. The top recorded speed was 84 mph.
Photo radar is effective at changing driver behavior. Jurisdictions that use it have seen average speeds drop -- along with the number of auto-related accidents and injuries.
The bill passed by the General Assembly would ensure that the technology was not abused. Photos would be reviewed by a law enforcement professional before tickets were issued, and vehicle owners could appeal tickets in court.
Some people suggest that this legislation is about generating revenue for local governments. But the bill would return two-thirds of the revenue from fines to the state. Rockville's goal isn't money, it's safer residential streets.
I have experienced the arrogance of Washington area drivers for a quarter century, but in the past couple of years I have noticed a new and dangerous phenomenon -- the quick merge.
Many vehicles entering expressways are not yielding to the main traffic. This means that expressway drivers sometimes must slow or move to the left, thus increasing the danger for all surrounding vehicles. Quick merges almost eliminate the outside lane while slowing traffic in the passing lane.
With the Beltway filled to capacity, this growing phenomenon increases danger and slows traffic. The police can't possibly monitor every ramp area, but perhaps flashing warning lights could be installed on ramps where traffic volume is particularly heavy.
My father died in an auto accident caused by another driver's illegal lane change. The quick merge must be policed before it gets even more out of control.