Friday, September 25, 2009

New Generation of Speed Cameras Designed to be Hidden

Chevy Chase Village has installed a new type of speed camera along Connecticut Avenue. The new cameras use lasers rather than radar to measure a vehicle's speed, and are claimed to be able to determine the speed of several vehicles at the same time and photograph all of of them. The old ones (still in use in most other parts of the county) could only measure the speed of one vehicle at a time (Please take note of this fact if you previously received a ticket before that had 2 vehicles in the photo, as had been the case with some of our readers who contacted us. You should NOT have gotten those tickets because the cameras cannot confirm which speed was being measured). More significantly, however, the cameras no longer have the now familiar 3-pole setup of earlier fixed cameras, and are smaller, more concealable, easier to move from place to place, and painted green to blend into the background.

Baltimore County and some towns in Prince George's County have already approved the use of speed cameras within 1/2 mile of schools, under authority of senate bill 277 which takes effect October 1, 2009. Those cameras could be vans, fixed pole camera, or the new portable laser cameras. More importantly however starting October 1 the State of Maryland is authorized to begin using the cameras in highway work zones. The work zone cameras can be on roads where the speed limit is 45mph or greater (meaning 55mph or 65mph highways), regardless of whether workers are present, according to the wording of the new state law. Highways officials have said that there would initially be about 6 highway workzone camera locations, primarily in the DC-Baltimore region, one of which will be in the area of the I-95/ICC interchange.

State Highway officials previously confirmed that workzone cameras WOULD be used where no workers were present by stating "We need to be having traffic slowed down even when workers are not present"[ref]. Highway officials did state that 'speed trailers' will be used to indicate the drivers' speed, but there is no legal requirement that this be done. Many work zones have reduced speed limits (from 55 to 45 for example), and there is nothing explicitly in the law which forbids placing cameras immediately after the reduced speed limits sign (Montgomery County has set the precident for this type of setup already). It is our expectation that IF state and local governments choose to provide the prominent notice which public officials have been promising, and to extend the courtesy of not doing what we have suggested they are now authorized to do, that will last only until state and local lawmakers who voted for the cameras have cleared the 2010 elections.