6/10/2015Maryland Community Angry At Being Targeted By Speed Cameras
Civic association in Olney, Maryland document disproportionate speed camera ticketing of local motorists.
A community group in Montgomery County, Maryland has released a report documenting how residents are being disproportionately targeted by speed cameras. The Greater Olney Civic Association presented its findings at a community meeting on Tuesday. The association represents nearly three dozen neighborhood and homeowners associations within the unincorporated town of Olney. The group intends next month to transmit a set of recommendations to "eliminate the disproportionate impact" of the speed camera ticketing to state and local lawmakers.
"Montgomery County should take steps to have a plebiscite determine the future direction of the Safe Speed program," the association's task force report states.
The association created a task force to determine how thirteen speed cameras spread around Olney generated $3.4 million in revenue in 2013. After performing a camera-by-camera analysis, the task force concluded that the county was exploiting engineering deficiencies to maximize revenue. For example, the county lowered the speed limit from 40 MPH to 30 MPH on the 3500 block of Olney-Laytonsville Road and installed a speed camera that generated $827,560 in annual revenue, which is seven times greater than an average camera elsewhere in the county. In other locations, the report recommends a 35 MPH transitional speed limit between changes from 30 MPH to 40 MPH zones, because the county and its vendor have been stationing speed cameras in transition zones to snare vehicles that fail to slam on the brakes before passing the camera.
Just three of the highest revenue-producing cameras in Olney combined to outpace the entire ticketing totals for all of the cameras in the cities of Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, which represent double the population. The report also questions the safety motivation asserted by county officials in installing the cameras.
"The task force notes that of the 863 reported accidents identified in the Olney area (278 on Georgia Avenue and 585 on Route 108) only 1 accident, or one tenth of one percent, was definitively associated with 'Exceeding the Speed Limit,'" the report explained.
By contrast, 59 percent of accidents were attributed either to failure to pay attention or failure to yield the right of way. Although there were 42 accidents where the driver was traveling too fast for the conditions, they were not exceeding the speed limit. Some 71 percent of these incidents took place in either wet or snowy conditions.
The report notes that speed camera profit represents 37 percent of the police department's revenue, yet the ombudsman position required under state law to resolve speed camera complaints answers to the police department's traffic camera unit.
"The task force expected the ombudsman to be a liaison between the community and the camera program, representing concerns of the community and individual citizens with the program, individual citation problems, etc," the report explained. "The task force believes there is a strong conflict of interest issue in having a county contracting official, who manages the speed camera contract, also function as the program's ombudsman."
The association recommends that the county appoint an an independent citizen's advocate for the program. A copy of the report is available in a 1.3mb PDF file at the source link below.