Monday, March 27, 2017

Speed Limit Reduction Bill Advances

Do you believe your state lawmakers actually drive 20mph?

A bill which would allow Montgomery County to lower the speed limits on many roads to 20mph has passed the House of Delegates and approaching a vote in the State Senate.

House Bill 332 would allow Montgomery County to decrease the speed limit on any road "outside an urban district" to 20 miles per hour.  This would allow the county to set a different traffic engineering standard for speed limits than elsewhere in the state where this limit is 25mph.  The biggest practical effect of the legislation would be to allow lowering of speed limits on many roads from 25mph to 20mph where speed cameras can currently be used, but cannot be used PROFITABLY, turning more safe drivers into lawbreakers by lowering speed limits would make the cameras far more profitable.

The county delegation originally proposed two bills, one of which would allow lowering the speed limit with no traffic engineering justification at all to 20mph, the other which would permit lowering the speed limit on any road outside an urban district to 15mph.  The house delegation gave the first bill an "unfavorable" vote, but House bill 332 passed with an amendment to apply a 20mph limit rather than 15mph.  [See Environment and Committee Vote Here]  This change to the bill is of little consequence with respect to the impact on speed camera programs since 20mph is the lowest speed limit which can be enforced by a speed camera in Maryland, making it clear the real intent of this legislation is to expand the county's speed camera program by making it profitable to use speed cameras in locations where it is not currently profitable to do so with a 25mph speed limit.

When asked by a member of the House Committee whether they could provide statistics showing that traffic fatalities were caused by the situations addressed by the bills, the sponsors could not produce any such data.  Studies have shown that reducing speed limits does not necessarily reduce accidents.  One study found that a UK effort to reduce speed limits from 30mph to 20mph actually increased traffic accidents.

The legislation was opposed in the House Committee by the Maryland Drivers Alliance, as well as by the Maryland Department of Transportation and by AAA, largely on the grounds that both bills would penalize motorists for driving at the same speeds that would be legal elsewhere in the state.  The fact that one of the bills the originally called for waiving all traffic engineering lays bare Montgomery County officials' true intent: to ignore generally accepted traffic engineering standards for setting speed limits and turn safe drivers into lawbreakers.  Perhaps the most unfair effect of all of the bill however will be that it actually penalizes NON-SPEEDERS, by forcing them to travel at bicycle speeds even though they had done nothing unsafe to begin with.  While this is billed as local legislation, the legislation WILL affect motorists from outside Montgomery County whenever they travel in that county and may apply to roads which receive state funding.

The definition of roads on which HB332 can lower the speed limit to 20mph is EXTREMELY broad, simply defined as any highway "outside an urban district"... thus including basically all of upcountry Montgomery.  No specific criteria for what justifies a 20mph speed limit is given, provided that the county can assign an engineer who will rubber stamp the wishes to lower the speed limit to bicycle speed the county would be able to do so and then enforce that new limit with speed cameras.  The bill would also reduce the carrying capacity of roads, with no plan to replace that capacity... making traffic congestion WORSE.

House Bill 332 is now scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday March 30 before it can be voted on by the state senate.  The members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee are:

You can find your OWN state senator here:

See the House of Delegates Voting Record Here