Like it or not, speed cameras are a reality. And they are making a LOT of money for state and local government, so they aren’t going anywhere soon.
If you drive, you need to read this post.
We will explain how the speed camera law works and what limits are placed on their use.
We will also tell you where the cameras are located, whether or not they are legal, and explain how you can challenge a speed camera ticket if you get one in error.
Background on Maryland’s Speed Camera Law
Maryland was one of the early adopters of using speed cameras. Now they are one of the national leaders. (Lucky us.) The first law allowed speed cameras in work zones. Now they are allowed in school zones too.
They are operated by your county or municipal government. Your local jurisdiction has to pass a law allowing for speed cameras. They are heavily used in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County. Charles County has speed cameras – mostly in school zones. Calvert County has them. As far as I can tell, St. Mary’s County does not.
Maryland made $62 million in speed camera revenue in 2017. Most of that (76%) was from Prince George’s County & Montgomery County. If you live in Southern Maryland, you will have to drive through a bunch of Prince George’s County speed zones on your way to DC.
By the way, DC is worse than Maryland! They issued almost 1 million tickets in 2016 – worth $99 million in revenue!
How Maryland’s Speed Camera Law Works
Here are some key points about speed cameras:
- Speed cameras are allowed in (a) work zones, (b) school zones, or (c) one of the other special areas allowed by law – like Rte 210 in Prince George’s County or residential areas in Montgomery County.
- You must be going at least 12 miles per hour over the posted speed limit to get a ticket.
- The penalty is $40, and there are no points on your license. (Red light camera tickets are $75 per and no points.)
- There must be a sign warning you of cameras in use, and the sign must also notify you of the posted speed limit. The signs have to be “conspicuous.”
- Definition of School Zones: These must be within 1/2 mile of a school.
- Definition of Work Zones: These are only allowed in a work zone on a limited access highway with a speed limit over 45 mph.
- Hours of Operation:
- For school zones, they only operate Monday – Friday from 6 am to 8 pm.
- For work zones, they can operate any time of day, and whether work is taking place or not.
- Notice of Locations:
- For school zones, the local jurisdiction must publish the location on their website, and in a local newspaper. These are the links to your local jurisdictions:
- For work zones, the locations are published on the “Safe Zones” website.
- Review by Police Officer: For school zone tickets, they must be personally reviewed by a sworn police officer before they get sent out.
And if you want to read the full statute, it is found at section 21-809 of the Transportation Article – available via the Maryland Courts page found here.
How to Challenge a Speed Camera Ticket in Maryland
So far, the speed cameras are legal and constitutional. Nobody has challenged them as being unconstitutional yet, at least not that I know about.
However, you can challenge a speed camera ticket by claiming you are innocent.
If you were not the one driving, you must provide a sworn statement that you were not driving the vehicle, along with corroborating evidence. For details, see the State Highway Administrations FAQ page at roads.maryland.gov. Choose the FAQ about work zone cameras since it has more detailed information.
You can also see this website of a non-profit dedicated to fighting speed cameras – Maryland Driver’s Alliance. They have a lot of great information about fighting these tickets and getting the law changed.
You can also request a trial in District Court, just as you can with any speed ticket. There is a form at the bottom of your citation which tells you what to do if you want a trial.
You will have to show up in Court with evidence of your innocence. I do not know of many who have been successful at this defense, and most people don’t think it is worth $40 to contest a ticket.
Can I Just Ignore a Speed Camera Ticket?
This is a bad idea. If you don’t pay the fine, it will be a major headache. Your registration will be suspended, additional fines and penalties will be imposed, and the State Central Collection Unit will come after you.
Believe me, you do not want to fail to pay one of these tickets no matter how angry it makes you.
My Opinion on Speed Cameras
I don’t like speed cameras on general principles. I think they amount to a user tax on the highway system. They don’t take into account things like other traffic around you, weather conditions, and other things that affect the real world safety of the moment.
But unlike regular speeding tickets issued randomly by police anywhere (which don’t do anything to actually slow anyone down), it is hard to argue that speed cameras in specific places (like school zones) don’t work. They do slow people down, mostly because of the sign warning you it is there.
It is also true that $40 is not horribly painful on the average person, and it is much less punitive than those $100+ Washington DC speed camera tickets you can get. I do hate those with a passion.
I would like to see better signage before a speed camera in a school zone. The purpose is to make people slow down in a school or work zone, not play “gotcha” and fine the citizens. A bigger sign would serve that purpose, as well as serve to warn you of the upcoming danger so you have only yourself to blame if you are forced to make a “contribution” to your local government.
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