12/2/2015Maryland: Speed Camera Tickets Stationary Bus
College Park, Maryland and camera vendor Optotraffic caught issuing photo radar ticket to stationary bus.
The Maryland Drivers Alliance has uncovered evidence that the state's speed camera programs continue to be plagued by accuracy problems. Last year, Baltimore made national headlines when an audit revealed it had been mailing automated speeding tickets to parked automobiles and drivers who were obeying the speed limit. Now the city of College Park and its for-profit camera vendor Optotraffic have been caught accusing a motionless bus of speeding.
The motorist rights group used a freedom of information act request to obtain copies of emails from city officials discussing erroneous photo citations. The heavily redacted documents describe a series of embarrassing errors. In October, for example, the University of Maryland complained about a ticket issued to one of its shuttle bus drivers.
"The photos purportedly show the bus moving at 38 MPH, but it is clearly stopped at the light at Calvert Road," a university staffer wrote in an October 16 email to the College Park public works director.
The university went on to prove that the GPS tracking system installed on the bus confirmed that, before the shuttle bus came to a stop, it had been traveling at 14.9 MPH, well under the speed limit. All of the university's buses are tracked in real time, allowing passengers to know exactly when their ride will arrive.
"I ran a report of the driver's entire shift, and he never went over 32 MPH, which is consistent with that driver," the university staffer explained. "Also, the way the lights are timed, when making the left from Guilford as that route does, the light at Calvert will always be red upon the bus's arrival."
The unapologetic public services director, Bob Ryan, consulted with Optotraffic and decided to cancel the clearly erroneous ticket. This was not an isolated incident. The Maryland Drivers Alliance confirmed at least thirty cases where innocent drivers were wrongly accused because the Optotraffic automated system misread the license plates and nobody verified the vehicle information against the photograph. One driver ticketed on May 4 wrote the city to complain.
"The name given on the ticket is mine," a handwritten letter explained. "All the other information about the vehicle I am completely unfamiliar with. This is information about a vehicle that does not belong to me and which I know nothing about."