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WMCCA President expresses support for expanded speed camera bill in Baltimore County

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NOTE: The following is a letter to the editor from White Marsh-Cowenton Community Association President Heather Patti.

HB58/SB450 proposes legislation which will permit autonomy to Baltimore Co to install speed cameras in residential areas, as Anne Arundel and Montgomery Counties already have.

With the high numbers of accidents in our area (not counting highway accidents) along with the severity of damage/injuries, I felt it necessary to be a proponent of this legislation.

Here is the text if my testimony to our Annapolis elected officials:

“RE: SB450/HB58 – ‘Speed Monitoring Systems, Residential Districts’

Dear Legislators of Maryland,

My name is Heather Patti and I am the President of the White Marsh Cowenton Community Association in Eastern Baltimore County. We are served by the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company (WMVFC) and Baltimore County Police Precinct 9. The population of White Marsh 21162 is approximately 10,000 residents. During 2023 the WMVFC responded to 149 motor vehicle collisions (MVC) on I-95, while they responded to almost twice as many MVC on residential roads (252). Of the 252 MVC in residential areas, 134 required transport to Bayview Trauma, Johns Hopkins Trauma, or the University of MD Shock Trauma. 63% of our MVC occurred on residential streets, and over 50% of these MVC resulted in serious or life threatening injuries. Within White Marsh and the adjacent Perry Hall and Middle River areas, we witness serious accidents on an almost daily basis along Silver Spring Rd (35 mph posted speed limit), Ebenezer Rd (35 mph posted speed limit), Philadelphia Rd and Honeygo Boulevard (both of which are 40 mph posted speed limits). Additionally, there have been as many accidents within our community – New Forge Rd (35 mph), Cowenton Avenue (30 mph), and Joppa Rd (30 mph). No one pays any attention to the speed limit.

Some people say that speed cameras are an invasion of privacy, however the 4th Amendment doesn’t guarantee any expectation of privacy in public places. The streets where we drive, that we cross to enjoy parks, and that we live are public places. When we obtain our driver’s license we sign off not only that we are able to operate a motor vehicle, but that we have read and understand traffic signs, traffic laws and the “rules of the road.” We all need to be held accountable for this. The privilege of operating a motor vehicle is not more important than the lives of Baltimore County residents.

When Baltimore City implemented redlight and speed cameras, I was very much opposed. Why? I took advantage of the fact there weren’t enough police officers in the city to enforce the speed limits. I admit it – I occasionally indulged in speeding to get through a traffic light, or speeding because I was late. Guess what? After receiving a few speed camera and redlight camera tickets, I chose to alter my behavior. I showed more respect for the speed limit and other motorists by traveling at an appropriate speed, not running redlights, and defensively approaching traffic intersections so I wouldn’t be forced to run the light. I like to think that this “respectful” driving very well led to increased safety. We NEED this in Baltimore County!

I’ve heard a few of our State Delegates who are opposed to this legislation say that “we just need more police to make traffic stops.” I can’t help but wonder if these same legislators are aware that the Baltimore County Police Department has a deficit of over 300 officers, countywide. (Two Precincts worth of staffing by the way.) It is FOOLISH to think that with a staffing deficit this large that a traffic enforcement department will magically appear. Clearly in this climate we cannot expect or count on law enforcement officers to do traffic stops, because they are too busy answering calls for service. I listen to the scanner on a regular basis and I’ve been astounded to know how many calls of service there are for mental health crises, theft, assault, domestic violence, drugs, guns and MVC. For Precinct 9 (White Marsh) for example, there are more School Resource Officers (SRO) than officers assigned to patrol! How are 6-7 patrol units supposed to answer calls for service (everyone wants the police to arrive within minutes) if they are making traffic stops?? There’s no way the patrol officers can do both – answer calls and perform traffic enforcement.

Times change – when I was growing up society respected police officers, businesses were closed on Sundays, and hardly any were open 24/7. Children listened to their parents, and parents were responsible for their children. MVC still happened but usually due to driver error and not speeding. Today is very different than the 1970’s. We need speed cameras in residential areas, because an adult yelling at a someone speeding down our residential street to “slow down!” doesn’t work anymore. There’s no shame in speeding through cookie cutter neighborhoods or the roads that connect them. If someone yelled for another driver to “slow down!” on their residential road, my money is on someone being assaulted. Residents shouldn’t have to live in fear of their vehicles being damaged or being hit/injured/killed by an immature, irresponsible motorist speeding through their neighborhood. We DESERVE speed cameras in residential areas within Baltimore Co.

There are a handful of speed cameras near public schools in Perry Hall/White Marsh. Miraculously motorists have learned not to speed through these areas, most likely as a result of speed camera tickets. The lesson IS taught until it’s learned and sometimes taking a hit to the wallet is the best teaching method.

The purpose of this bill is to localize decision making around speed monitoring systems, which have been proven to reduce speeds in the areas they are implemented. It’s time that Baltimore County is granted autonomy over it’s roads, just as Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County and Montgomery County already have.

This bill returns the decision to implement new speed monitoring systems to the Baltimore County Council, and further requires that the Baltimore County Police and Baltimore County Department of Public Works conduct a safety analysis on any proposed location for a speed camera before a determination is made on whether one should be installed. (Speed cameras will NOT be a plentiful as Amazon delivery trucks.) The prospective speed camera locations would only include locations where traffic calming measures and speed bumps have not resolved speeding. According to our First Responders, speed humps absolutely slow down emergency response times. We don’t need more speed humps. Baltimore County needs speed cameras in residential areas.

Lastly, in my opinion this legislation doesn’t go far enough since it wouldn’t include 40 mph posted speed limit zones. In our community Philadelphia Road is primarily a residential road, with homes directly located on an estimated 75% of the road. Despite the posted speed limit signs, the average speed along this road is at least 60 mph. Two years ago, a long-time resident of Philadelphia Rd was struck and killed in front of the house she’d lived in for 40 years, and at the hands of a speeding motorist. Further, Honeygo Boulevard also has a 40 mph posted speed limit, and connects Perry Hall Boulevard with Belair Rd. Beyond Silver Spring Rd it’s a very residential road with several parks and a school with Honeygo Blvd addresses. I’ve lost count of the serious accidents along this roadway caused by speeding. In fact, I’ve even been a victim of several speeding/aggressive drivers along this road; they tailgate, weave in and out of traffic, cross the double yellow line, etc. There are countless accidents involving people exiting the Honeygo Regional Park who are struck by speeding motorists on Honeygo Blvd. These accidents always require towing; they are not fender benders. Every afternoon and evening I see adults and children walking along the sidewalk along Honeygo Boulevard. It’s unfair to them that motorists with little regard for their lives feel it’s appropriate to drive 50-60 mph along this road.

In closing, Baltimore County should have the autonomy to control speeding along Baltimore County roads. Expecting additional police traffic stops is not possible due to serious staffing shortages. Speed humps slow down emergency response times and put residents in harms way. Baltimore County residents deserve to have the option of speed cameras in their residential areas. I am urging you to vote YES for SB450/SB58, “Speed Monitoring Systems, Residential Districts.” Our lives literally depend on it.

Thank you for your consideration of my support of this very timely legislation.

Heather Patti
President
White Marsh Cowenton Community Association
[email protected]
(443) 769-3604″

Photo via Pixabay

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