Driver advocates remain skeptical of Montgomery Co. speed camera - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Driver advocates remain skeptical of Montgomery Co. speed camera program

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There is an uproar in Montgomery County over speed cameras. It is a program that brought in nearly $16 million to the county last year.

But many drivers are crying foul, saying the speed cameras are not accurate. Meanwhile, some Maryland state lawmakers are calling for a review of the entire system.

You see the flash of light in your rearview mirror. It is a good indication you were going at least 12 miles per hour over the speed limit and a citation is on the way.

But how can you be certain you were actually speeding? In Montgomery County, many motorists are skeptical. Among the skeptics is Ron Ely, chairman of the Maryland Drivers Alliance.

“When you have a situation where the justice system is being used for profit, then it's really almost impossible for someone to get a fair hearing,” said Ely.

As Montgomery County's speed camera program has grown exponentially, Ely said there have been new revelations of potential inaccuracies.

Baltimore City is among at least 20 jurisdictions across the country to shut down its speed camera programs because of complaints of erroneous citations. Ely wants Montgomery County to be next.

“There's not any way to audit this and find out the real truth of the matter,” Ely said.

He continued, “There's no way you can do anything, but just trust because they say somebody calibrated it -- that it’s accurate.”

And he said the program doesn't respect some of the promises originally made when it was implemented.

“One of them was contractors weren’t going to be paid based on the tickets issued,” he said.

“When we void that citation, the vendor doesn't get paid, so we use this as an accountability measure to make sure that the vendor produces only quality citations,” said Montgomery County Police Captain Thomas Didone.

Capt. Didone, who runs the speed camera program for Montgomery County Police, said motorists can always contest a ticket. It is no different from being stopped by an officer.

In fact, he said the cameras work even better than having police on patrol. He said they have seen proof over time the cameras change drivers' behavior and that the cameras are accurate.

“I can assure you this camera is accurate,” said Didone. “We've looked at the data. We’re able to track that the camera can track the speeds of the vehicles going over the speed limit and then the vehicles going under the speed limit.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend said the problem is there is no advocate for motorists in Maryland. So instead of putting up a fight, it is easier for people to just pay the $40 fine.

“You have to have safeguards in place to protect the rights of motorists,” Townsend said.

Because of that, the Maryland General Assembly is now considering measures to reform the program on a statewide basis. It is something AAA supports.

“The onus is on the motorists to prove they were not speeding and some lawmakers want to change that equation and put the burden of proof on the jurisdiction,” said Townsend.

“I understand people feel entitled to speed, but the reality is we want people to respect the speed limit, and at 12 miles over the limit, any time you get a speeding ticket, you’re going too fast. Please slow down,” said Capt. Didone.

Ely said if you think there should be a change in the program, the best thing to do is to contact your state lawmaker.

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