Fort Meade cracks down on speeding

Drivers on routes around the post affected, too

Published 04/27/09
If you drive around Fort George G. Meade, be mindful of your speed. Police there are in the middle of an initiative that encourages drivers to slow down.

The Fort Meade Police Department is trying to curb speeding on roads on and around the post. The warm weather means more children are outside playing, and more bicyclists and pedestrians are sharing the roads, increasing the likelihood of a deadly crash, particularly if a car is going too fast, officials said.
"There's a bigger flow of traffic on the roadways," said Lt. Michael Kenny, a traffic supervisor in the post's police department. "For the past few months, motorists weren't used to sharing the road."
The anti-speeding campaign isn't targeted at just drivers inside the fort; it affects all motorists on parts of routes 32, 175, 198 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway as well. These roads were built by state and federal agencies - not the Department of Defense - but the land technically belongs to Fort Meade, and their police enforce laws there, as do state and county police. In effect, the laws that apply inside the post also apply to these roads.
If cited for speeding on the fort's land, drivers could be fined between $80 and $1,000.
Last year, county police had an anti-speeding initiative on roads near the fort. While the current enforcement is around the clock, county police focused on commuters headed to work before the normal morning rush-hour traffic.
About 23,000 people work on the post, and an estimated 65,000 retirees depend on it for services, as do thousands of other military families. Routes 32, 175, 198 and the parkway are busy during rush hour as people head to the fort, Baltimore or Washington.
Fort Meade police have used accident data and citizen's complaints to locate problem spots, officials said. They've set up signs with radar guns that display motorist's speeds and are using speed traps. Police there do not use speed cameras, Kenny said.
"It's not about how many tickets we can write," he said. "We're trying to change drivers' behavior. If we can change that with a warning, that would be great. But if it takes a ticket, we'll do that, too."
Generally the speed limit inside the post is 25 mph. Around schools, construction sites and residential areas, it's 15 mph. And when passing troops, it's 10 mph. On routes 32, 198 and the parkway it's 55 mph, and on Route 175 it's 40 mph.
The anti-speeding initiative is schedule to last through the end of the month.
If cited with a traffic violation on Fort Meade land, the court that will hear the case depends on a few factors. If the alleged infraction occurred inside the post, the case goes before the Magistrate Court on Fort Meade. If it is outside the fort, it depends on who issued the citation.
If it's a county or state police officer who writes the citation, then the state District Court hears it. If it's a Fort Meade officer, then the case is heard there, Kenny said.
But there is an exception.
Parts of what is today Fort Meade used to belong to the state. If that property was ceded to the federal government before 1941, then the fort always has jurisdiction. After that, it could be either a state or federal court that hears the case, said Kristin Fleckenstein, spokeswoman for the State's Attorney's Office.
There's also a difference between traffic laws on and off military installations. For example, on military installations, motorcyclists are required to wear fluorescent vests for visibility, and motorists are forbidden from using cell phones while driving unless they are using a hands-free device. They are also forbidden from sending text messages while driving. These rules that do not apply to people driving on other Maryland roads.
Technically, motorists on parts of routes 32,175 and 198 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway are supposed to follow those rules, too. But since those roads are heavily used by civilians who might not know the different rules, officers use discretion when issuing citations, Kenny said.
"We do have (civilian) traffic coming through there, so we take that into consideration," he said.