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Report: Speed Camera Ticket Accuracy Comes Under Scrutiny

A state delegate wants speeding tickets dismissed in cases where it's unclear the motorist was in violation.

A recent report published by the Baltimore Sun points out an issue with speed cameras in Howard County—citizens who receive a ticket can't check the accuracy of the camera based on the photographs provided.

Because Howard County speed cameras round the times each photograph is taken to the nearest second, motorists who receive a ticket are not able to calculate the accuracy of the camera's radar gun based on the distance their vehicle travels between photographs, according to the Sun.

In Baltimore County, a state delegate is calling for a state audit and possible reboot of the speed camera program in Maryland.

Del. Jon Cardin told Patch Monday he would like judges to throw out tickets when it's not clear that the driver was speeding. He stopped short of saying he would include language in his bill that would freeze speed camera programs used by the state, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties.

In Baltimore City, citations provide time stamps to the thousandth of a second on each of the two photos on the citations issued. Those time stamps allow for a math calculation that helps determine speed, according to the paper.

The General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the implementation of speed cameras in highway construction and school zones.

A spokesperson for the Howard County Police Department told the Sun the photographs are used to show that the vehicle is in motion, not prove the vehicle was speeding, and are in compliance with the law.

Howard County currently employs two manned speed camera vans that are posted throughout the county in school and work zones.

Each camera works by using laser technology to track a vehicle during a certain period of time. At the end of the tracking period, the system determines the average speed of the vehicle, according to information posted on the county police's website.

The tickets do not provide the distance used by the camera to determine how fast the car was traveling. If distance was provided, along with time stamps down to the tenth of a second, a motorist could use a math equation to determine their speed, according to Judge Steven A. Glazer, who wrote a lengthy article this year taking a look at speed cameras in Washington DC and Maryland.

In the article, Glazer notes the problem of photos that do not include times down to at least the tenth of a second: "Without knowing the precise moment when each photograph was taken, it is impossible to say for certain how fast a vehicle was going between the takings of the two photographs."

Glazer, an administrative law judge with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also pointed to examples from Washington DC that not only provide detailed time information, but also include measured markings along the road where speed cameras are set up. Using the markings, motorists can estimate about how far their vehicle traveled.

Glazer wrote that a district court judge would have insufficient evidence to tell how fast a car was really going based on photographs unless detailed time and distance information are provided.

MG42 December 10, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Thanks to the Baltimore Sun for raising this very valid point. Very sloppy, Howard County Government.
EL December 10, 2012 at 11:13 PM
so how do we make noise to get this changed, fixed, stopped. HoCo Police may need to find a new fundraiser.
Jason Keyes December 11, 2012 at 01:23 AM
It's not sloppy. It's by design. You can bet the judges in HoCo aren't going to care that your citation doesn't offer any real evidence you were speeding.
Greg G. December 11, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I would have no problem with this if they were used for what they were intended. Please explain to me why a speed camera is set up outside the school for the deaf at 7:03 pm taking pictures parked less than ten feet from a fire hydrant. School is not in session and they are parked illegally. This is just another revenue source being used under false pretenses which makes it even more reprehensible. Typical HoCo lies.
EL December 11, 2012 at 02:32 PM
For the same reason they park up on the grass field off of Cradlerock, and outside Centennial HS during spring breaks - to keep the kids in school safe - or is that to put more money in the safe.
EL December 11, 2012 at 02:33 PM
So, I am curious. If you are accused of a crime, aren't you entitled to see the evidence against you? If this is not possible with these tickets, how is this legal? Or are speeding tickets under a different policy? Serious questions by the way.
Joe December 11, 2012 at 03:31 PM
EL, that is why there are no points. Add points to your license and they could not pass the law.
Joe December 11, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Another question, if one is pulled over by a police officer and gets a speeding ticket and 2 points and a fine, and someone gets caught by a cash camera doing the exact same speed over the posted limit, why are they treated differently than the one pulled over in person? No more equal protection under the law is there?
David Maier December 11, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I think the answer is that cannot prove who was driving the car. So the car violated the speed law not the driver. The ticket is against the car. I don't know how a car can defend itself. This is nothing more than a cash machine without rules. It is a stick up and you lose - doesn't matter if the machine is correct or not.
Brett December 11, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Lets use are brains here. If the Howard County Police and the Howard County Governemenrt actually wanted people to slow down then their approach would be different. If cops wanted you to slow down, then why would they hide at night with their lights off in speed traps? Why not keep your lights on and turn on the sirens? That would be far more effective at actually slowing drivers down. These speed camera vans? Why are they parked in discreet areas( often times illegally parked I might add)? Why are they disguised with advertisements to make it appear it is not a camera? Why not park them in a clearly visible area and have the vans clearly marked so people know? The answer to this is clear- money. They are nothing more then money traps and its disgusting. If you took any potential revenue gain out of the equation- do you think they would pretend to care about speeding? The sad thing is it seems like it Howard County, the police care more about speed traps then actually protecting its citizens. And now we can't even properly defend ourselves in the court of law because the "speed cameras are never wrong." Hey HoCo Gov't- let's put the issue of speed cameras up to a public vote. You are supposed to be the "voice of the people" are you not?
Joe December 11, 2012 at 04:23 PM
If anyone needs proof that at least in DC these are cash cameras and have NOTHING to do with safety, read what Police Chief Lanier in DC had to say about the ability for drivers to know the locations of the cameras on their smart phone and other GPS devices. http://race42012.com/2009/07/16/the-dc-police-chief-cowardly-tactic-to-learn-where-i-place-red-light-cameras/ "Lanier said the technology is a “cowardly tactic” and “people who overly rely on those and break the law anyway are going to get caught” in one way or another." "Chief Lanier “promised her officers would pick up their game to counteract the devices, which can also help drivers dodge sobriety checkpoints.”" "Lanier says about the technology, “It’s designed to circumvent law enforcement — law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives." According to The Examiner, Lanier doesn’t support an attempt to ban the camera-avoiding software — but only because it would be “too difficult.”" If thje drivers KNOW where the cameras are they WILL SLOW down to avoid a ticket and IF safety was the goal, she should have no issue since the goal will have been achieved.
Sean Colin December 12, 2012 at 12:07 AM
If the State says they are OK with you going up to 11 MPH over the posted speed limit in school and work zones, then shouldn't that hold true for an actual officer? Shouldn't the officer have the ability to write you a civil $40 ticket too? How can you have two different penalties for the same alleged crime, no matter if one is civil and the other criminal?
Greg G. December 12, 2012 at 01:45 AM
The answer to El's question is that these tickets are considered "Civil" violations and not criminal so the right to face your accuser is not applicable and therefore the loophole scam they have created. The real problem is that if you are a parent and you have twins how can they reasonably prove who did what. They become a criminal ticket if you fail to pay the ticket and then become guilty until proven innocent which is BS in itself. My father was Chief of Delaware County in PA for several years and then later the Director of the BCI for PA and fought against these because even he knew it was illegal. The real issue is that the private company running these and the red light cameras gets 70% of the fine and they are allowed to change the timing of the lights. So lights near Columbia Mall change from yellow to red in 4 seconds or less, while lights without cameras are typically 11 seconds. Nice huh.
Paul Hoffman December 12, 2012 at 01:53 AM
If the idea of speed cameras is safety why do the vans go to great lengths to hide in bushes or behind signs, out of view? Today most of us drive with a lot on our minds. It seems to me that a van sitting in plain view would be a reminder to slow down. After all, the signs out on the highways are nothing more than reminders for us. They certainly are not hidden....They are reminders! If the cameras are not about money paint them orange or red, put a flashing light on them and have them in the open....Wouldn't that remind us! COME ON HOWARD COUNTY JUST SAY IT IS ABOUT MONEY....Safety was only used to sell it to the public.
Greg G. December 12, 2012 at 02:53 AM
We all know it's about money. New York State Troopers did it best. As a PSA they would come on right before the nightly news and announce that there have been too many accidents or fatalities on a certain stretch of road. Therefore they would stop and ticket anyone speeding or driving recklessly in that area. Statistics show there are more rear end accidents at stop light cameras then those without. Clearly, it is not about safety.
Joe December 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM
No Owe'Malley says that the pay per ticket bounty is against the law he pushed and supported. Well then Gov, DO SOMETHING about it if these jurisdictions are violation Maryland law! Don't just open your piehole! Do something!
EL December 14, 2012 at 01:40 PM
So all tickets are checked and double checked. That is the party line, correct? So how about this news story? http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/transportation/cars/video-daniel-doty-gets-speeding-ticket-going-0-mph
Paul Hoffman December 14, 2012 at 06:49 PM
There are 48 million reasons why the city has no interest in reviewing tickets prior to sending them out. After all, if 60% just write a $40. check and send it in, isn't that what the jurisdictions want....just pay it and forget it!

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