The state House of Delegates and Senate recently overrode a gubernatorial veto and gave Montgomery County police the go-ahead to install speed cameras in residential areas and school zones.
Radar activated, the cameras photograph and ticket anyone going more than 10 mph above the 25-, 30- or 35-mph maximum speed limit in those areas. Fines can be as much as $40 but carry no points on a driving record.
Frederick County officials are discussing similar legislation, said Lt. Shawn Martyak of the Frederick Police Department, who is in charge of the red light camera program. Police have met with Mayor Jeff Holtzinger and the Board of Aldermen and hope to put the topic of speed cameras on the list for state representatives to discuss during the upcoming legislative session.
"We believe it's useful," he said. "There's not enough officers to go around. Most of our complaints are about people speeding in residential areas and school zones."
The issue of cameras used in any kind of law enforcement is fiercely debated, with one side saying they represent Big Brother, are used only to make money and don't give people a fair chance to fight the ticket. Those in favor say they will improve safety and reduce the workload of officers.
The text of the House bill states if an owner can prove the car was stolen or someone else was driving it, as well as "any other issues and introducing any other evidence that the District Court deems pertinent," he or she won't be liable for the fine.
I have to side with the goody-two-shoes on this one -- if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. I'd be less inclined to support the idea of cameras if they were in places other than quiet streets where children ride bikes and pets sometimes venture into the road.
"You never know when that ball will come across the street," Lt. Martyak said. "Chances are, someone driving slower will be able to react quicker and prevent tragedies."
The cameras will be up and running in Montgomery County by the end of the year. The earliest Frederick would see them, if legislation passes quickly, would be October 2007, Lt. Martyak said.
Speaking of red light cameras ...
The Frederick Police Department has released the results for September's red light camera violations and citations.
Cameras recorded a total of 730 violations at monitored intersections. Of these, police issued 482 citations.
Reasons a ticket would not be issued for a violation include funeral processions, emergency vehicles with lights flashing, out-of-state vehicles, mismatched registrations or no record of the registration and unclear tag image or vehicle image.
By intersection, East Third Street/East Street had 27 violations; Motter Avenue/West Seventh Street had 51; Opossumtown Pike/Thomas Johnson Drive had 111; Rosemont Avenue/Montevue Lane had 141 and Rosemont Avenue/Schley Avenue had 152.
The total number of citations issued since May 2005, when the program began, is 8,289.
Those who receive citations may view the video of their violation at www.cityoffrederick.com. Follow the link on the left-hand side of the page, "View your red light video." Have your citation with you -- you'll need the citation number to view the video.
This week in Frederick:
# Today: A reminder that all vehicles must be removed from East and West Potomac streets in Brunswick by 10 a.m. for the Veterans Day Parade. Any vehicles remaining on Potomac Street after 10 a.m. will be towed.
All side streets off East and West Potomac streets will be closed at 10 a.m., not allowing through traffic. Those on Walnut Street and other streets south of West Potomac can go through the alley across from Florida Avenue to leave the city.
Other streets that will be closed at 10 a.m.: Ninth Avenue and A Street, 10th Avenue and A Street, and A Street at Gum Springs Road.
# Until Tuesday: The parking lane in front of 248 Dill Ave., which was closed last Tuesday to accommodate a PODS storage unit, is scheduled to remain closed until Tuesday.
# Friday: The Motor Vehicle Administration will close all offices and vehicle emissions inspection stations in observance of Veterans Day.
n From now on: As regular MARC commuters have probably already noticed, train 891 on the Brunswick line, which used to depart at 4:05 p.m., has been re-scheduled to depart 15 minutes earlier from Washington's Union Station, due to conflicts with an Amtrak train that departs at the same time. The change began Oct. 30.