Concerns Raised Over Continuous Audits For Speed Cameras

MACo Legal and Policy Advisor, Leslie Knapp Jr. testified in opposition to SB 769, Vehicle Laws – Traffic Control Signal Monitoring Systems and Speed Monitoring Systems – Continuous Audits, to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 15, 2016.

The bill would require the adoption of automated audit technology (essentially a computer algorithm) that would monitor speed camera data and potentially identify additional valid citations and erroneous violations. (The bill also included red light cameras but the bill sponsor, Senator Gail Bates, indicated that she was offering an amendment to limit the bill to speed cameras only). Knapp was joined by a panel of county and municipal representatives who argued that the technology currently appeared to be limited to a single vendor based in the United Kingdom and that it was unclear whether the computer algorithm would improve upon the rigorous citation review process adopted by the General Assembly in 2014.

From the MACo testimony,

MACo is concerned that the bill requires adaptation of a technology whose vendor pool is extremely limited. The principal vendor offering such audit systems, StarTraq, has designed its monitoring for speed camera programs operating in the UK, which have different operational and review standards than Maryland’s program.

Preliminary testing of audit systems elsewhere in the United States suggests there may be very little refinement achieved by adding this new layer of cost and oversight. Meanwhile, the cost of these vendor contracts would siphon operating costs away from other needed public safety priorities.

Maryland’s program already has comprehensive checks and oversight requirements. In 2014, this Committee and the General Assembly passed bi-partisan legislation that made numerous reforms to local speed camera programs, including mandatory best practices training, review of each issued citation by a law enforcement officer, penalties for vendors that submit erroneous violations for law enforcement review, the creation of a citizen “ombudsman” who can review and void erroneous citations without the need for a citizen to have to go to court, and annual performance reports.

The legislation passed with the support of MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and AAA-Mid Atlantic.

Since the adoption of those reforms, the media has not reported on any broad systemic issues regarding the use of speed cameras. The number of speed camera citations issued continue to decline in those areas that have mature camera programs.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.