Friday, November 18, 2016

Montgomery County Lawmakers Want Speed Limits Lowered to 15-20mph

Montgomery County Council Member Hans Riemer
believes YOU can't safely drive faster
than 20mph
Local and state lawmakers from Montgomery County are proposing legislation which would significantly lower speed limits on a huge number of roads, including lowering the limits on some roads to 15mph and lowering the "default" speed limit where no speed is posted to 20mph.

State Delegates David Moon(D, Takoma Park) and Korman(D, Burtonsville), in partnership with Montgomery County Council Member Hans Reimer, have introduced three bills to lower speed limits.  One proposed a bill would allow Montgomery County to lower the default speed limit to 20mph.  Under the bill, Montgomery County would be exempted from any requirement to conduct a traffic study to justify lowering the speed limit to 20mph.  Police would therefore have probable cause to stop any motorist traveling over 20mph, and the 20mph zones would also presumably be subject to enforcement by speed cameras, without any traffic engineering study being done to affirm that the speed limit.This state legislation is being presented as a county bill, meaning that motorists from other parts of the state visiting Montgomery County would be subject to the very different "default" speed limits than in their home counties.

Another bill would allow lowering any speed limit in an "Urban District" of Montgomery County to 15mph, turning anyone driving a mere 20mph on these roads into a "speeder".  Currently "Urban Districts" may have speed limits of 25mph.  Another bill would allow speed limits to be lowered to 15mph if there is a school anywhere within 1-2 miles.   The definition of a "School Zone" according to state law and standard traffic engineering practices in Maryland  can only apply to roads within 1/2 mile of a school, meaning the new zones are up to 16 times the size of current school zones and could potentially encompass almost the entire county.  Unlike most of the rest of the state, Montgomery County uses speed cameras outside school zones, so if the act were used to lower speed limits to 20mph cameras could be used to enforce the newly lowered limit even though they were not in school zones... potentially increasing county speed camera revenues significantly.  The legislation would also give police probable cause to stop motorists on these roads merely for driving faster than fifteen mile per hour on a road previously designated as 25mph.

Delegate Moon says that lowering speed limits to 15-20mph is aimed at "correcting" speed limits in urbanized parts of the county. 

Hearings are scheduled on the bills on December 5 and 7Contact information for Montgomery County delegates can be found here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Opinion: Hold the Montgomery Council Accountable

With so much focus in the media on national elections, it is often forgotten that our local and state elected officials have a much more direct impact on our day to day lives, and how much more your vote really matters in determining the outcome of such votes.

Residents of Maryland don't get to choose state lawmakers this year.  Nor do residents of many areas get to pick their elected county officials.  But that does not mean your vote does not count when it comes to local matter.  Who votes and how they vote still has an impact on how seriously the concerns of different constituencies are taken, and local ballot questions are still very important.

In Montgomery County in particular, there are several questions on that ballot which they can decide.  "Question B" would create term limits on the Montgomery County council, to a maximum of three terms.  Not surprisingly, supporters of the county status quo don't want you to vote for this.  In fact, they are so concerned that term limits will pass that "Question C" was added solely for the purpose of preventing one council member from being unable to run if term limits pass, by ensuring a partial term does not count towards the term limit.

The current members of the Montgomery County Council have wavered between total indifference on motorist issues to open hostility towards motorists.   It seems like their answer to motorists who want road infrastructure improvements is that you should take the bus.  This county government has consistently prioritized transit projects over road projects.  Some council members have even supported the lowering of speed limits.

This county government has created the largest photo enforcement programs in the state, and one which operates under fewer restrictions than any other program in the state.  Not one member of the current Montgomery County Council has been the least bit responsive to any of the complaints we have raised about their automated traffic enforcement programs.  When concerns about the culture of secrecy surrounding the County's Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit were raised, the county government had nothing to say and let the situation stand unquestioned.  When questions were raised about the creation of secret "Police Citizens Advisory Boards" that were exempt from the Open Meetings Act, the county government had not a word of concern.  When it was reported that the County had illegally issued thousands of citations without legally required calibration logs, elected officials had nothing to say and did nothing to have those tickets refunded.  And the current county government continuously uses YOUR tax dollars to push for more restrictions on your rights at the state level and against any new protections for your rights.

Motorists living in Montgomery County cannot vote out the current county council this year.  But you can show them that their actions and their indifference have consequences by voting FOR QUESTION B and AGAINST QUESTION C.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

College Park Refunds Hundreds of Erroneous Citations

WJLA has reported that the City of College Park issued 685 erroneous speed camera citations which will now need to be refunded.

Motorists had received citations in September from a speed camera located on Baltimore Avenue (rt 1) in College Park for violating the 25mph speed limit.  However the speed camera was in fact located before the 25mph speed limit sign and was actually within the 30mph zone.

College Park initially agreed to refund 5 citations from motorists who had complained about the citations.  However two weeks after being contacted by a reporter from WJLA, the city agreed to refund 685 tickets.

Photos provided to the Maryland Drivers Alliance by one motorist showed the original location of the speed limit sign.
Old speed limit location, located after the camera

The camera was located atop a pole in the 30mph zone before the start of the posted 25mph zone.

After being contacted with complaints form motorists, the speed limit sign was moved the absolute minimum amount in order to place the camera inside the 25mph zone..  This concealed speed camera is now located atop a pole located just a few feet beyond the new 25mph speed limit sign location.
New 25mph speed limit location, located just a few feet before the concealed speed camera

It is not yet known whether the city continued issuing citations immediately after the speed limit boundary was suddenly moved.

The camera had been configured for a 25mph speed limit for approximately one month.  During that period of time, operators would "sign" daily configuration logs stating the device was correctly configured, without ever detecting that the device was configured with the wrong speed limit.

College Park has had issues with erroneous citations in the Past.  Last year we reported that College Park had falsely accused a stationary University of Maryland Shuttle Bus of speeding.  We also reported on numerous examples where College Park had cited the wrong vehicle.  In 2011, a motorist successfully disputed a speed camera citation from College Park, using data from the "car chip" in his vehicle which recorded that his car had not in fact been speeding.