Sunday, March 3, 2013

House Committee to Examine Six Speed Camera Bills

A hearing is set  for six speed camera related bills in the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis on March 5th starting at 1pm.

These bills were largely prompted by revelations that Baltimore City and speed camera contractor Xerox Corp had systematically issued erroneous speed camera tickets to hundreds innocent motorists, and that the error producing camera was left in operation for many months after the city and Xerox were aware of the problems, as proven by emails from March 2012 and July 2012.  The legislation was also prompted by an audit of the SHA's speed camera program which documented improprieties in the procurement of their speed camera contract and the testing and certification of equipment.

The bills to be heard are:House Bill 421: A speed camera reform bill which requires speed camera citation images to provide secondary evidence of speed.  The bill would also eliminate "per ticket bounty" contracts (ie "contingent fee contracts) which are now common throughout the state despite an existing provision of law which was supposed to ban such deals (according to a statement by Governor O'Malley himself).  And it would require a speed camera contractor to be fined $1000 for each erroneous citation issued.  (See our previous coverage).

Cameras in Baltimore City produced erroneous speed reading even though they passed all calibration tests even on the very same day one of them ticketed a completely motionless car).... proving that claims that equipment is 'calibrated and tested daily' are utterly meaningless in terms of ensuring accuracy.  The same types of cameras which produced those errors are currently being used in Baltimore County and the City of Rockville, and the same contractor which previously ran these cameras also run's speed camera programs for the SHA and Montgomery County.  A bill with some similar provisions was recently heard by a Senate Committee, where employees of speed camera programs argued that motorists should not be permitted access to secondary evidence of speed because "the courts could be swamped" by people contesting tickets (In other words: the government should be allowed to implement a policy designed to deter people from contesting tickets by ensuring that it is hopeless because people are presumed guilty).  

House Bill 166 :   Would require speed cameras to capture a video clip of the alleged violation and make this available to defendants.  (See our previous coverage)  The presence of video clips taken by Baltimore City's cameras was what first revealed the errors in Baltimore City's Program, and it is what prompted the Baltimore Sun's investigation into errors by Baltimore City speed cameras and eventually forced Xerox corp to admit the systematic errors by their cameras.  This bill will likely be opposed by speed camera programs and contractors who will claim this will require them to change to different hardware, ***but who in reality are concerned about errors being revealed within their own programs***. 

House Bill 251 :  A bill to repeal speed cameras all together.  (See our previous coverage)

House Bill 435 :     A bill which would award a defendant $40 should a court rule in their favor.  (See our previous coverage)

House Bill 929:  A bill which makes modest alterations to signage and citation review requirements for speed cameras.

House Bill 1094 :   A bill sponsored by delegates Frank Conaway and Curt Anderson which would award a defendant $250 should a court rule in their favor.  This is similar to HB 435.

Despite much talk about speed camera reform legislation in the press, any reform bills will likely face a difficult uphill battle merely to make it through this committee in tact.   Last year the Environmental Matters Committee, chaired by Delegate Maggie McIntosh(D, Baltimore City), heard testimony on a credible reform bill (House Bill 1044).  That 2012 bill was prompted by apparent speed camera errors in various towns including Forest Heights, College Park, Brentwood, and a disclosure by the Town of Cheverly that Optotraffic technology had produced "false triggers".  (Read our coverage of last year's testimony and the extensive evidence of errors presented to the committee one year ago.)  The House committee took no action and rejected the bill without even a vote.  A promised "interim study" on the subject was never conducted.

Committee hearings on these bills begin at 1pm.  You can contact the members of the Environmental Matters Committee here.
Environmental Matters Committee Members:

Please contact us at if you plan to attend the hearing.

Those who profit from speed cameras are throwing VAST resources (including some resources paid for out of your tax dollars) into blocking any meaningful reform of the state's speed camera law and to protect their right to continue breaking promises which were made to the public.  YOU are the only resource which can counter that.  It is up to you whether you will speak up now while you have the opportunity, or whether you will blindly 'just pay the fine' like good little sheeple.