Opinion, Police/Fire, Politics, Sci-Tech

NOW YOU KNOW: Baltimore County speed camera bill on life support

The following is an update from Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki.

Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki have been extremely concerned about a bill that has been reintroduced this session in the General Assembly. The bill would allow unlimited speed cameras to be placed across Baltimore County.

HB58, Baltimore County—Speed Monitoring Systems—Residential Districts, authorizes the use of speed monitoring systems in certain residential districts in Baltimore County. Essentially, under this bill, County officials will have the authority to put speed cameras on almost every street in the county.

This bill will eliminate the checks and balances of the Maryland General Assembly by giving Baltimore County officials the sole power to install these new traffic cameras whenever and wherever. This could lead to a record-setting number of speed cameras across Baltimore County.

We share everyone’s concerns about the number of speeders in our communities and the dangers they pose. Speed cameras slow people down at the cameras. That works well at schools, as we need drivers to slow down in front of all our schools, especially on roads with a higher speed limit. Often, drivers speed up as soon as they pass the speed camera zone. The best way to slow drivers down is to increase the traffic patrols within the Baltimore County police. These officers can move around the county in an unpredictable way and cause all drivers to slow down everywhere. Unfortunately, our law enforcement agencies are all understaffed right now, so the traffic patrols are drastically understaffed.

Baltimore County officials currently have the authority to install speed monitoring devices within half a mile of any educational facility. The County can expand the number of speed cameras without HB 58. Currently, 78 speed cameras are operational in Baltimore County, 36 of which are in school zones. More than 636 speed monitoring devices can be added within half a mile of the public or private school zones.

This proposed bill is so expansive in its powers that it was killed in last year’s session. This year, we were able to get some restrictions on the speed camera bill to ensure that people with stolen cars are not caught up with tickets from a thief driving fast in speed camera zones. We were also concerned about tickets getting mailed to old addresses, resulting in late fees and impacting vehicle registration renewal.

We should not be giving law enforcement the power to decide where to put speed cameras; we should instead be emboldening our police officers to work more traffic stops so that we can ensure safe roads all across the county, not only in select zones that people adjust their speed to avoid the speed cameras. It has already been proven that speed cameras do not change overall driving behavior; it is just a money grab, and that’s precisely how constituents view this bill.

Baltimore County has a policy of moving speed cameras when they no longer generate sufficient revenue. So, this bill is just another ploy to raise more revenue. Baltimore County alone collected over $7 million in speed camera tickets just in 2022. Imagine how much more money would come from Baltimore County residents’ pockets if this proposal to add 8x more speed cameras was passed.

The bill is currently sitting idly because of the many concerns about HB 58. To pass by the end of the legislative session on April 8, it will have to overcome some significant hurdles.

We will oppose this bill, as we did last year when it was first introduced. We will fight to ensure that Baltimore County roads are safe and not used as piggy banks to take money from our constituents.

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