12/29/2008Maryland Vigilantes Blind Sneaky Camera Trap
Speed camera program in Montgomery County, Maryland receives a black eye after drivers trapped by quick limit change
Vigilantes used spraypaint to put a temporary end to an unfair speed trap in Montgomery County, Maryland. Officials recently set up a set of speed cameras on Route 28 in Darnestown in locations specifically designed to trap motorists who fail to react quickly enough to a sudden drop in the speed limit. On the western end of town, the limit on Route 28 is 50 MPH. Less than a mile from a camera, the limit drops to 40 MPH. A lone sign indicates another change to 30 MPH, and just a few feet later a speed camera stands ready to issue instant tickets to anyone who fails to jam on the brakes. A reader of the StopBigBrotherMD.org website photographed the situation. View photo.
"The cameras were seen flashing several cars in a row, all of which seemed to be driving in what most people would consider a normal, safe manner," the editor of StopBigBrotherMD explained. "However, because there is so little space between the signs and the cameras even someone who is fairly diligent about obeying speed limits could easily get nailed if they were to try to save gas by coasting down to speed instead of immediately hitting the brakes."
Drivers who escape these cameras face another set being installed just up the road on Route 118. There, the speed limit is 40 MPH until less than a tenth-of-a-mile before the camera where the limit suddenly changes to 30 MPH. In every case, no warning is given beyond a single speed limit sign immediately before each camera.
For at least one vigilante, this situation was too much. A can of spraypaint was used to blacken the photographic lens of at least one camera, preventing it from issuing tickets. Although such actions violate laws against vandalism, Montgomery County itself is explicitly violating state law in its own operation of the camera system (more). Maryland Code Section 21-809 prohibits the compensation of the contractors that operate the speed camera program from being paid on a per-ticket basis.
In open defiance of the statute, Montgomery County pays Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) a bounty of $16.25 for each citation the company issues.