General Assembly Puts the Brakes on Speed Camera Legislation

The Maryland House of Delegates has reported unfavorably on two bills creating new restrictions or requirements for local speed camera programs (HB 1151 and HB 1365).

HB 1151 of 2018

HB 1151 was sponsored by Delegate Terri Hill and would require speed camera images to show linear distance traveled by a vehicle, expand a current annual calibration requirement, require a law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who conducted the annual calibration to be present in court if a defendant requests it, and creates a rebuttable presumption regarding information requests.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 1, noting that most of the bill’s provisions have been previously considered and rejected by the General Assembly. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1151 requires a speed camera image to show an accurate representation of the linear distance traveled by a motor vehicle between each time-stamped image. This requirement was considered and rejected during discussion of the 2014 legislation. More accurate speed camera technologies, such as the laserbased LIDAR systems, rely on continuous sampling over a distance and the photographs taken by the system are designed to show that the vehicle is in motion. The images cannot be utilized to accurately show linear distance traveled over time.

Similarly, the General Assembly has consistently rejected expanding the annual calibration requirement. The current calibration process typically takes several weeks as the camera is taken out of service; packaged and shipped to an independent laboratory; taken apart, inspected, and reassembled by the laboratory; and then shipped back to the local jurisdiction. This detailed process ensures the camera is functioning correctly and accurately.

The bill’s requirement that the law enforcement officer who signed the citation or the technician who performed the annual calibration check be present and testify at trial with just 10 days of written notice is impractical, costly, and in some cases, may be impossible to meet. This is particularly true regarding the laboratory technician, who is not under the direct control of the local jurisdiction and may be located a significant distance from the jurisdiction (or even in another state).

Finally, as the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the rebuttable presumption provision will encourage citation recipients to request additional information from the local government and go to trial in District Court in the hopes of having the citation voided due to the presumption. Current law already provides for the admission of relevant evidence, including the recorded images taken by the camera, the certificate of annual calibration, and the camera’s daily self-test and set-up logs. Furthermore, all local jurisdictions must have a speed camera “ombudsman” to answer questions. Any written questions received and the ombudsman’s response are available for public inspection. The bill’s provision is excessive and unnecessary.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from Baltimore City, the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

HB 1365 of 2018

HB 1365 was sponsored Delegate William Wivell and would have altered the operational hours of speed cameras in school zones, limited the cameras to the road adjacent to the school that has the most student traffic, required a real-time posting speed limit sign next to school zone signs, and limited speed camera vendors to 30% of the total revenues generated by the program.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on March 2. From MACo’s testimony:

HB 1365 would limit the use of a school zone speed camera from 1 hour before to 1 hour after instructional hours on days when school is in session. This Committee has considered and rejected limiting the hours of operation in such a manner. The current Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, operational time is consistent and easy-to-understand. The current rule incorporates the primary times when most school and after-school activities occur. HB 1365’s language would create a confusing patchwork, as different jurisdictions’ schools operate on different schedules and may be closed at different times for in-service or training days.

Current law provides for rational criteria as to where speed cameras can be located within a school zone: road segments where students are walking and bicycling to or from school or where they are being picked up or dropped off by school vehicles. However, this bill would narrowly and illogically restrict speed cameras to a highway that fronts the main entrance of the school or the entrance that experiences the greatest amount of student and bus traffic. The school itself may not be the location where speeding poses the greatest risk to students, which is why the current law covers areas where the students may be traveling to and from the school.

The bill also requires that if a local jurisdiction has a school zone speed camera program, each school zone sign must be next to a device that displays a real-time posting of the speed at which the driver is traveling. This is costly and unnecessary. Current law already requires specific signage that is compliant with State Highway Administration standards. Drivers are provided with reasonable notice to check their speed.

Joining Knapp was Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Manager Richard Hetherington. Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs’ Associations also testified in opposition to the bill.

Useful Links

HB 1151 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1151

Delegate Terri Hill Webpage

HB 1365 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 1365

Delegate William Wivell Webpage

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