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4 Md. jurisdictions provide lion’s share of $63.8M in speed camera fines

A speed camera on Old Harford Road outside of the Hamilton Elementary Middle School. (File Photo/The Daily Record)

A speed camera on Old Harford Road outside the Hamilton Elementary Middle School. (File Photo/The Daily Record)

Four Maryland jurisdictions accounted for nearly 60 percent of all speed camera fines issued to drivers in the state in the last fiscal year.

Nearly 1.6 million vehicles were cited for exceeding the speed limit in school zones around Maryland at a cost of nearly $63.8 million in fiscal 2018, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Baltimore County combined accounted for the majority of fines issued.

John Townsend, a spokesman for the motorist club, said the amount of fines speaks volumes about the attitude of some drivers traveling through school zones.

“We have too many people speeding through school zones,” said Townsend. “There’s more than 1.5 million people. That’s a large number.

The organization supports the use of the devices as a way to improve traffic safety.

“”Yes, I do think it makes a difference,” Townsend said.

In all, Montgomery County tops the list, collecting nearly $16 million in fines, followed by Baltimore City, which reported $9.6 million in speed camera revenue.

In Maryland, $40 speed camera citations are issued to motorists who exceed the posted speed limits in school zones by more than 12 miles per hour. Similar cameras are in operation in highway work zones around the state.

The citations are issued and mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

By comparison, a similar system in the District of Columbia issues tickets ranging between $50 and $500 per instance based on how much over the speed limit the vehicle was traveling. Those fines went into effect on Jan. 1. In fiscal year 2017, Townsend said, the district collected $100 million from its system on lower fines.

The program in Maryland and other jurisdictions was billed as a safety measure intended to slow traffic in school zones but have come with their own controversies, including from motorists who have found the citations nearly impossible to challenge in court.

Six counties — including Baltimore City — and 38 smaller incorporated municipalities use the devices. Combined with Charles and Howard counties, the six largest jurisdictions account for nearly 64 percent all speed camera fines issued.

Most camera systems in school zones operate Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Six municipalities — College Park, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Laurel, Salisbury and Takoma Park — made the motor club’s list of “most lucrative” speed camera systems, generating between $1.2 million and $2.7 million each.

College Park, which placed fifth on the overall list with more than $2.7 million in fines, runs its cameras 24 hours a day.

Baltimore City restarted its program in 2017 after mothballing it for four years following reports that the system issued inaccurate tickets, including some to cars that were not moving.

A recent report by the Office of Legislative Audits found that the State Highway Administration, which operated 18 speed cameras in work zones around the state in fiscal 2017, failed to properly administer the program. It is not clear from the audit if the program reduced accidents resulting in fewer workers being injured or killed.

The number of motorists ticketed statewide in the last fiscal year represents a small increase compared to previous years.

In fiscal 2017, roughly 1.5 million motorists paid a total of $62.2 million in fines. Nearly 1.6 million motorists were issued tickets in fiscal 2015 — the high-water mark since the program was instituted.

Since fiscal year 2014, 6.3 million motorists caught speeding by the automated devices in Maryland have paid $288.5 million in fines.

“Some people are getting the message, but some are not,” said Townsend.

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