Talkin’ Transit: They’re Watching You

Photo courtesy of
‘Do You Slow for Speed Cameras?’
courtesy of ‘Wayan Vota’

On Thursday, Big Brother is allowed to catch you speeding in Maryland. But will he really be watching?

The use of automated speed cameras becomes legal in Maryland tomorrow, but according to WaPo, few communities are jumping up to embrace it. Currently Gaithersburg, Chevy Chase Village, Takoma Park and Rockville employ the electronic devices – have been since 2006, since they went through the steps to use them. But some counties in the state have indicated they don’t plan on taking advantage of the new law.

The Maryland speed camera law was passed this past April. According to the law, before cameras can be used in other Maryland jurisdictions, the county or town council must hold a public hearing and give its approval. If the cameras are on federal or state highways, the approval of the State Highway Administration is required. Baltimore County has already authorized their use and several Prince George’s municipalities have started the process. (That would be Riverdale Heights, Berwyn Heights, New Carrollton, Bowie, District Heights and Cheverly, if you’re keeping track.)

Howard and Anne Arundel counties have no immediate plans but are taking initial steps to set aside money for possible programs.

Photo courtesy of
‘My high school drivers license’
courtesy of ‘richardmasoner’

The law isn’t a blanket one, however. It was crafted with several precautions against speed trap abuse. For starters, the location of each zone has to be posted on the municipality’s website, along with prominent warning signs if the cameras are in school zones and state highways. School zone cameras have limited time usage as well. No bridges or tunnels can be used and only drivers nabbed going 12 mph or above are cited.

Most interestingly, if a municipality earns more than 10 percent of its annual revenue from the cameras, the excess must be given to the state. (We’ll call this the “Connecticut Avenue” proviso, thanks to Chevy Chase Village and their $2.6 million taken in camera citations last year.)

Montgomery County seems to be pleased with the overall results of camera programs; they released a report earlier this week saying that accidents in camera zones have declined by 28 percent in the first year of usage. After the first year, the number of citations dropped by nearly 80 percent.

Not only has the ticket deluge dropped, so has the speed. According to the same report, the average speed near the cameras did drop, as well as the number of fatalities.

Maryland also plans on using mobile cameras in work zones on expressways and controlled-access highways where the speed limit is at least 45 mph. The only exempt area is the Eastern Shore.

Learner’s Permit Madness: Got a teen in your Maryland home? Bet they’re just begging you to let them rush out and get that golden ticket – aka their learner’s permit – before tomorrow. A new law goes into effect on October 1 that adds three months to the wait for a Maryland driver’s license.

However, Maryland officials have stated that there’s no ‘grandfather effect’ for new drivers. Even if you went today, you’ll still have to wait nine months (the new wait time) because the law applies while you still have the permit. Only permit holders who’ve had it six months already can get their license today without the additional wait time; if they wait until tomorrow, it’s another three months.

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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