Maryland Ramps Up Traffic Cameras… But For Safety Or Revenue?

from the gotta-be-the-revenue dept

While other states are banning traffic cameras after realizing that they’re entirely about revenue, and tend to be less efficient as a way of improving safety, it looks like Maryland is going in the other direction. Tim DiPaula points out that Maryland is planning to increase the use of both speed and traffic light cameras, using the overall “better safety!” claim to get it approved. Of course, the fact that some towns in Maryland that already have such cameras brought in more money from them than the entire town budget seems to also be an important factor.

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Comments on “Maryland Ramps Up Traffic Cameras… But For Safety Or Revenue?”

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rwahrens (profile) says:

limited installation options

Given that Maryland has limited speed camera installation to places where roads intersect with either parks or schools, and they are ONLY good at reducing speed at the location where installed, I have long felt that they are only good for spot enforcement and revenue enhancement.

I DO feel that they are quite good at reducing speed in front of schools, where such has been an issue for years.

BUT Maryland has also used them for reducing speed on major roads where they have bike paths cross the road, classifying those crossings as “parks”, allowing the use of the speed cameras.

Yes, this does reduce speed on those roads, but ONLY in the block where the camera is installed. After people pass the camera, speed goes back up, so a roadblock is created, sometimes creating a block long traffic jam just before you get to the camera!

Most people hate them, pictures have been taken of people hanging their butts out of the window, and even cops have been photographed giving the cameras the bird!

Mitch (profile) says:

Maryland wants to get rich off of us only

I work for a mobile tech repair company in Montgomery County MD and I must say the places where these cameras are located are almost always in areas good at catching you more than anything else. I hate these cameras and wonder why some of them are there at all especially in the face of the restrictions of it being only in places like schools. Can someone please tell me why the one on Montgomery Village Ave is there? I got nabbed by a mobile camera for the first time a couple weeks ago and I never saw the thing. I also thought they wanted to make it blatantly obvious that they were there so to prove that this was not a money making venture but a safety one. I have almost hit a car when I was going 35 in a 35 and a guy slammed on his brakes because of one of these cameras. just to see the guy speed up to 60 just a bit up the road. That did great for overall safety.

James Sullivan (profile) says:

How about people follow the rules?

Unless the municipalities are putting the speed cameras in places right before changes in the speed limit why is it such an alien concept that people folllow the road rules? Same with red light cameras, which I don’t think are as popular down here in NZ as they are up MD and US way in general.

The cops down here when people coplain about speeding tickets pretty much say slow down. Though to their credit I’ve never seen speed cameras in stupid places like 20m before a change in the speed limit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How about people follow the rules?

That would probably be because most speed limits imposed in most areas are artificially low to generate income just like the cameras do. Most people can use common sense and know what a good safe speed is for a particular road. Problem is, if I feel 45Mph is safe for a stretch of road and do that, I find out the actual limit is 35Mph and BAM, ticket. It’s all about the money, not safety.

Kevin says:

Maybe I'm crazy

But I don’t like speed and redlight cameras. The best way to deal with them is to avoid them completely. In a lot of cases this isn’t practical, but I make a conscious effort to avoid driving through towns and communities that make use of these cameras. I’m only one person, but there are definitely businesses that I used to frequent that I no longer support. If everyone did this (and I’m under no illusions that even a small percentage would) then those cameras would generate no revenue for the city that is using them. On top of that, a lot of businesses in those areas would lose money, reducing tax revenue. Once the city gets the hint that traffic cameras are actually costing them money then they’ll stop using them. You could also get the same effect by just driving very cautiously in areas that have cameras.

Of course, it seems that Maryland found a way around that. If they take the cameras to the state level rather than the city/town level, it’s a lot harder to avoid them altogether.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's probably revenue based

Installation of traffic cameras require capital investment.

Unless Maryland came into Buku Bucks, and can state it’s part of a larger, ITS infrastructure implementation, it’s difficult to see how it’s existence would not be purely revenue in scope– as there would need to be some sort of return on investment.

But I have doubts Maryland is looking at ITS.

mkvf (profile) says:

If the state’s going to raise revenue by force, aren’t systems like this a fairer source of income than taxes on property or income (or on vices that only hurt the person indulging in them). At least here, you’re paying a price for doing something that’s dangerous and anti-social, rather than for doing something productive.

Shouldn’t the answer be to have more speed cameras, so everyone who acts anti-socially pays the same price, rather than having less and only charging some people?

Zaven (profile) says:

Love 'em

I live in Montgomery County, MD and I personally gotta say I don’t have much of an issue with the cameras. In my area there’s been red light cameras for a long time and I’m just kinda used to them by now. As for the speeding camera’s, they seem to put all the one’s I see in more rural areas (if you can call anywhere in Montgomery County rural). That is, areas where there are long stretches without lights. They’re strictly for revenue as I know me and most of the people I know don’t alter our behavior a bit. Personally I drive even faster on these roads since I know exactly where I have to slow down, and have no worries of being pulled over.

If these really worked says:

Then the goal would be to loose money. Reason being if you put up a camera to stop people from running lights, then the result should be people stop running lights and you write no tickets. Therefore you would loose money from the investment of the cameras, but increase safety.

The fact that they are writing so many tickets proves the cameras don’t work and all they do is make it easier for the state or town to make money. The ironic thing is they actually want you to run the light so they can make money, which means they don’t give a crap about safety at all.

And yes there are a lot of studies that show these things cause more accents from people slamming on their breaks then they prevent. I’ve put the link up several times and I’ll go find it again if asked.

Joseph M. Durnal (user link) says:

This Marylander doesn't really mind

I’ve always said that I don’t mind red light and speed cameras. As someone who doesn’t speed much and doesn’t run red lights (got caught on camera once turning right on red, didn’t see that no turn on red sign!) I don’t think they are anything to worry about. With regards to speed cameras, I think the biggest problem is the restrictions on where they can be used. There are plenty of spots on highways and interstates that could use better speed enforcement. Just yesterday, driving on I70 west between Frederick, MD & Hagerstown, MD I witnessed several impatient drivers speeding and weaving, which reminded me of several traffic accidents on that section of road. And there is a section of highway with cross traffic that is particularly bad when traffic exceeds 55 mph because the cross traffic can’t see the oncoming cars because of a hill. That would be a great place for a speeding camera.

When it comes to revenue, I still don’t see it as a problem. Really, what is the difference between this and a cigarette tax? Maybe we should call it what it is, a speeding tax, for those who chose to speed. If you think that citations for revenue purposes are something new, they are not, back in the day (early 80’s) my mother worked for a small town in West Virginia which often had to forfeit citation revenue to the state because it exceeded a certain percentage (50% I think) of all town revenue.

rwahrens (profile) says:

speeding in MD

I wouldn’t mind the speed cameras so much (and don’t in front of schools) if their speed laws were in any way reasonable! MD (and Montgomery County in particular) just loves to set speeds as low as possible, then catch people exceeding those speeds. Many many roads that are multi-lane (and often parkway style with medians between directions) have ridiculously low speed limits, often as low as 30 miles per hour, where one’s natural inclination is to go 45 or more – and traffic often does in general.

Yes, speed kills, but what it is that kills is the DIFFERENCE in speed between someone going faster and the idiot that insists on driving slow regardless of conditions or traffic. Obstacles, whether rolling ones such as slow drivers, or stationary ones such as speed bumps or speed cameras, disrupt the flow of traffic and increase the chances of accidents as drivers attempt to avoid those obstacles or drive around them.

I once saw a driver on a Houston Tx freeway get pulled over for driving TOO SLOW! I smiled for a week.

Dude says:

Drivers in MD

I live in MD, but I was born raised, and lived majority of my life in NY.

NY drivers are very aggressive but at least when they decide to make a move, they do it.

MD drivers are passive. For example, when using a ramp to get on the highway, they slow down instead of speeding up to match traffic speed. (I have almost been the victim of such stupidity many times)
Another thing that MD drivers do is they never use their blinkers. What’s even worse, ppl in MD pass on the right, instead of the left. I don’t know why but it’s what they do.

so to have these cameras, I feel like the “safety” is misplaced. I think the safety begins with the driving schools/tests.

But, I guess my real question is this: If I am driving on a popular road, with plenty of cars, over the speed limit, will we all get a fine? and do we “have” to pay them?

MD Resident says:

So, slowing down in school zones is a bad thing?

I live in rural Montgomery County (yes, it does exist). These cameras are just making it to my neighborhood. I’ve even paid my share of fines from them, because I didn’t notice the installation.

With that being said, I am all for the speed cams, even along my commute. Sure, people do speed up again after they pass the camera zone, but the do slow down and it takes a while to get up to an unreasonable speed. I see it as more of a “sin tax” than anything overbearing. You speed, you break the law, you get caught, pay the fine (with no points against your license) and move on. The county gets revenue, and people finally have to slow down in school zones.

What is the problem with that?

Michael says:

How we got rid of them.

Up here in Canada, several cities removed their red light cameras after a campaign by citizens who would challenge every ticket they got, this of course meant that the city made NO money off the tickets after the courts had to deal with an influx of traffic court cases, and removed the cameras. Organize an information campaign in your city to inform people of this successful tactic, and you will force them to pay attention.

kirillian (profile) says:


I remember my father getting pulled over for driving too slow (I grew up in Dallas, TX). There’s a completely different concept of driving down there. They actually care about safety…sometimes…

If law-enforcement actually cared about safety rather than making money off the letter of the law, then we would have more enforcement of the actual causes of traffic problems – cruisers in left lanes, grandma driving 20 mph in a 45mph zone, lane-changing without signals, and similar stuff. The real issue is that speeding tickets are profitable. How are you gonna make money off of grandma driving 20 in a 45 mph zone (reckless driving?!?)? Unless there’s a minimum speed limit posted, there’s not really a good way to give grandma a ticket…you can only pull her over and tell her that she’s being a hazard. Suddenly, you’ve wasted that valuable time where you could have been working towards your monthly quota of ticket revenue.

While slightly extreme, the point is that the whole situation is about money, not my safety or the safety of my fellow drivers…in fact, cops are just as dangerous of drivers as the rest of the crowd…

James says:


Also, the traffic lights in this town are set to halt traffic as often as possible. The city says it’s looking into computerizing the lights to promote traffic flow, but since the existing system is fully capable of synchronizing (as evidenced after a black-out) that’s just hand waving. I’d bet the insurance companies have a hand in it too, since the increase in premiums exceed the revenue from tickets.

James says:


Also, the traffic lights in this town are set to halt traffic as often as possible. The city says it’s looking into computerizing the lights to promote traffic flow, but since the existing system is fully capable of synchronizing (as evidenced after a black-out) that’s just hand waving. I’d bet the insurance companies have a hand in it too, since the increase in premiums exceed the revenue from tickets.

Anonymous Coward says:

According to the state of Arizona’s DoT (wish I could still find the link), slower speed doesn’t necessarily make us safer. A relatively uniform speed, with minor variations in speeds on a per lane basis which naturally allows people access to spaces to merge into is the most accident free traffic model. In other words, everyone should travel the exact speed of the person in front of them, but 4 or 5 mph faster than the person to their right.

According to the PSAs advertised on the radio in the metro DC area, if you hit a person at above 35 mph, they’re almost guaranteed to suffer catastrophic injury or die. But in some areas, the speed limit is 30, and you can’t even do 20 because of the amount of jay-walking that goes on (K street and by GWU are particularly awful).

And I recall some towns getting ripped after that last round of federal yellow light timing investigations a few weeks ago. Many of them found that once they put their yellow light durations up to the federal minimum, the revenues dropped so significantly that they couldn’t even pay licensing fees for these cameras. Most people don’t realize that the companies who manufacture the cameras typically don’t sell them — they do a rental + maintenance plan, and they charge the city/town thousands of dollars per month per camera.

Anonymous Coward says:

Speed Camera Studies Abound...

Guess what their conclusions are?

Some of these studies may be duplicates, though I tried to avoid that (and I avoided anything that appeared to be associated with IIHSA – I think)…

There were other studies that cost to purchase that provided a brief conclusion that speed cameras seemed to reduce speeding, fatalities and accidents. I did not include those because I was unwilling to purchase the studies and because I thought it was unfair to include a conclusion without the analysis to back it up.

Michael says:

I'll post this again...

Since I posted this once and it disappeared I’ll do it again, our city dropped the camera’s after a campaign by people to challenge every red light camera ticket you receive, causing the tickets to actually LOSE money rather than make it. Voila, the camera’s are gone. You do have the right to challenge the tickets, and it only costs you a bit of your time. When they see how the court costs are piling up, they will reconsider the cameras. Its worked everywhere its been tried.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'll post this again...

lol…Why is this any different than people challenging every speeding ticket they get, or every ticket they get from a police officer for running a stop sign or a red light, or any other traffic violation? Answer: It is not. Judges in most districts are permitted to raise fines if they sense the challenge to the traffic ticket is without basis or if the challenger is wasting the court’s time. Yes, challenge the red light cameras, but be unsurprised if your fine, which may have been a relatively modest $75, turns into $300.

Michael says:

Re: Re: I'll post this again...

The difference is that challenging a ticket issued by a police officer means facing your accuser. A judge can hear both sides and determine who is correct. Camera tickets offer no such chance and so they should be protested.

Additionally, speed cameras change the rules of the road. For as long as I have been driving speeding has been acceptable as long as it was within limits. I cannot even count how many times I have driven past a police officer while going well over the limit and he/she did nothing because I was following the flow of traffic. Instead the officer looks for those passing others and weaving between lanes. They use their judgement to spot dangerous drivers. Cameras have no such judgement.

If we really want to switch to a no-exceptions policy on speeding better technology exists. Every new car can be equiped with GPS tracking that issues a ticket when the speed limit is exceeded, of course our highways would become parking lots.

Dorea says:

red light and speed cameras

I would like to know where does all of the revenue for the speed cameras and red light cameras being installed all over Baltimore goes. Every week there’s a new school zone, some in places where there is no school visible anywhere. We pay new taxes on such everyday things as eating at a restaurant and having a drink at the end of the day. Our elected officials are constantly telling us of budget deficits. Where is all of this money going from these cameras? And i know it’s an awful lot of money!

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