Maryland traffic cameras -- examining the controversial use of red light and speed cameras to improved driver safety
July 25, 2008
By: Will Roberts
More and more cities around the country are using traffic
surveillance cameras as a way to crack down on speeders and
improve the safety of our roadways. One area of the country
where the use of red light cameras and speed cameras is
especially prevalent is the state of Maryland. In 2006, the
Maryland General Assembly voted to implement speed cameras
despite the objection of the Governor. We will review some
of the controversy surrounding the decision to implement
Maryland traffic cameras, and take a closer look at the
This trend has many Maryland citizens up in arms. Law
enforcement and governmental officials are claiming these
measures are essential to improve the safety of our roads.
Citizens however, see it differently. The following are some
of their chief concerns.
- Invasion of privacy -- Many Maryland drivers
view the proliferation of traffic cameras as a direct
violation of their personal privacy rights. They feel
authorities now have the ability to track their every
move. "It's another disturbing step toward Big Brother,"
said Senator E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36).
- Lose right to face accuser -- When a traffic
camera snaps a picture of your license plate, a ticket
is automatically generated and sent to the registered
driver of the vehicle. When the actual image is taken
and the event logged, the driver may have no knowledge
of the event. This makes it very difficult to recall
specific details about the location or the incident
itself. This leaves the entire burden of proof on the
driver who has very little recourse to defend
themselves. Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer, an opponent of
the traffic camera policy in Maryland states, "It's a
violation of Article 21 in the Maryland Declaration of
Rights, which grants the citizens of this state the
right to face their accuser."
- System prone to error -- Another problem the
citizens of Maryland have is that the system itself is
inherently flawed. One of the biggest problems is the
fact that there is no way to determine who is actually
operating the vehicle at the time the photo is taken.
Problems arise when a different driver from the
registered owner is operating the vehicle.
Another flaw in the system is the fact that there can be
a delay between when the violation occurs and when the
ticket is received. This further hinders an individual's
ability to recollect the actual event itself. In some
cases, tickets are never received, leaving the driver
with a violation they have no knowledge of. Most drivers
simply pay the ticket out of frustration of their sheer
inability to do anything about it.
Despite all of the frustration drivers experience there
is evidence to indicate that red light traffic cameras and
radar speed cameras do in fact reduce the number of traffic
injuries and fatalities. It has been reported that the
Maryland and D.C metropolitan areas have seen a steady
decline in speeding motorists since the traffic cameras were
installed. There has also been a 73.2 percent reduction in
red light violations since red light cameras were installed
That still has not helped convince the skeptics that
insist the installation of these traffic cameras is merely a
revenue generator for the city. In the Maryland and D.C.
area alone, officials collected more than $5 million in
fines from traffic cameras during just the first three
months of 2006. If the trend continued, they would be on
target to collect more than $30 million for the year. There
is no doubt, traffic cameras are a big revenue generator.
As long as traffic surveillance cameras are allowed to
remain in service, the controversy surrounding their use is
likely to continue.
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