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Maryland Deploys Speed Cameras on Interstate Highways
Speed cameras in Maryland to issue tickets on high-volume portions of Interstate 95.

Sen James Robey
Maryland officials wasted no time in kicking off the required warning period for the statewide interstate highway speed camera program authorized by a law that took effect yesterday. Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley announced that the first three locations for the cameras would target motorists in so-called work zones on some of the most heavily traveled interstates in the country.

Starting November 1, privately owned speed camera vans will issue actual tickets to commuters and travelers headed between New York and Florida. For example, on an average day 184,152 drivers will pass the new speed camera location on I-95 between MD 198 and MD 216 in Prince George's County. The Baltimore County I-95 location, between I-895 and White Marsh Boulevard, will target 162,812 drivers daily. On Interstate 695 at Charles Street in Baltimore, the cameras will record the passing of 159,021 cars.

Throughout these locations, orange cones will be set up to justify lowering the speed limit to 45 MPH. That means the owner of any vehicle accused of traveling 57 MPH -- regardless of whether any actual construction work is taking place -- will be mailed a ticket. Lawmakers claimed the program, which is expected to generate $65 million in new revenue, will enhance safety.

"This is a law whose time has certainly come, and I applaud my fellow legislators for taking on the challenge to pass it and other laws in the last General Assembly aimed at making it safer to drive in our state," state Senator James Robey (D-Howard County) said in a statement. "The challenges remain, but this is a giant step."

Robey and others trumpeted the results of a Montgomery County study released this week that claimed speed cameras were solely responsible for a 28 percent reduction in collisions within a half-mile of the ticketing devices. Fatalities, according to the report, increased from two deaths prior to camera installation to three deaths in the year following installation. These figures compare unfavorably to the number of fatal accidents in nearby Fairfax County, Virginia where, in 2008, traffic fatalities dropped 46 percent. Both counties have a population of about one million, but Fairfax County has no automated ticketing machines.

US Department of Transportation data suggest that reduced traffic volumes during the economic downturn may play a large role in the reduced number of road deaths throughout the entire country.

"Overall traffic fatalities reported in 2008 hit their lowest level since 1961 and fatalities in the first three months of 2009 continue to decrease," a July 2009 press release from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration stated. "The fatality rate, which accounts for variables like fewer miles traveled, also reached the lowest level ever recorded... Substantial declines occurred in virtually every major category."

Nationwide, the fatality rate in the first quarter of 2009 dropped 17 percent from the first quarter of 2006. Four speed camera companies spent $555,106 in campaign donations and lobbying to convince lawmakers to authorize Maryland's photo enforcement program.

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