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8/18/2008
Maryland: Camera Accuses Elderly Man of 100 MPH Rush Hour Blast
Silver Spring, Maryland speed camera makes claim that man drove an impossible speed.

100 MPH Toyota Echo
A Montgomery County, Maryland speed camera accused an elderly man of hurtling through a busy neighborhood at 70 miles per hour faster than the maximum legal speed -- during rush hour. The automated ticketing machine on Wayne Avenue near Dale Drive snapped two photos of the vehicle belonging to Silver Spring residents Terence Brennan, 68, and Helga Brennan, 76, on Wednesday, June 25, at 4:12 pm. While the Brennans strongly endorse the county's photo enforcement efforts, they are baffled as to how Terence Brennan could be accused of driving their Toyota Echo economy car at 100 MPH.

"We and our neighbors, who know well that even 40 MPH would be dangerous at this stretch, wonder how the camera could come up with such a reading," Helga Brennan wrote to The Washington Post. "This speed would be impossible on the Beltway at the best of times, and we have never in our life driven at this speed."

Manufacturer performance figures for the Echo show that it is capable of accelerating from a stop to 78.5 MPH in a quarter of a mile. From the stoplight at the intersection of Sligo Parkway and Wayne Avenue where the couple had stopped that afternoon, it is just over a quarter mile along the curvy, uphill road to the camera. The couple went ahead and paid the $40 ticket, but the Brennans explained in a letter to police that the speed was impossible under the circumstances. Officials ignored their pleas to cancel the fine.

Only after the Post and WTTG television got involved did Montgomery County admit that the camera, which has all the certifications of accuracy and maintenance records needed to allow thousands of citations to be issued, was mistaken. An official review concluded that this was the only mistake that the camera has ever made and that "human error" was at fault for failing to catch the obviously bogus ticket before private vendor Affiliated Computer Services dropped it in the mail. Erroneous tickets showing readings at or above 100 MPH will now be reviewed, and the Brennans will receive a hand-delivered $40 refund.

The Silver Spring camera is not the first to generate an obviously false citation. Last year, a speed camera in Colorado accused a pickup truck with a top speed of 99 MPH of going 132. Before that, a Scottsdale, Arizona sentenced a man to a month in jail after a speed camera accused the Hyundai Sonata he had rented of reaching 147 MPH. Since 2003, over 165,000 citations in Australia have been canceled after faulty speed readings were documented.

Source: Meet Silver Springs Would-Be Speed Demons (Washington Post, 8/17/2008)

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