County Executive Ken Ulman and Howard County Police Chief William McMahon announced their intent today to introduce legislation that would allow the use of mobile speed cameras in Howard County.
McMahon said if the legislation passes, the police department would initially buy two vans with speed cameras mounted on them. The legislation, however, would not specify a limit to how many cameras the department could operate in the future.
They cameras would be used in school zones between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Speeding, McMahon said, “Is the number one complaint I receive as chief of police." He said he wanted to take this step before lives were lost.
“Some would ask, ‘Well, how many kids have we had killed in school zones so far, chief?’” McMahon said. “Well, I’m not waiting until the answer is ‘oh, now we have one, let’s go forward.’ That’s time that’s wasted. That’s way too late.”
A public hearing about the proposed legislation is scheduled for April 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
“Citizens can be assured that we will be meeting with the police chief and his deputies to review the data and to look at the legislation before us and to listen to the public about this important legislation,” County Councilwoman Courtney Watson said at today’s announcment, which was made at 11 a.m. at Ilchester Elementary School.
One year after 15 speed cameras were installed in Baltimore County school zones, critics of the program have said that, although speeding citations went down, the number of accidents did not decrease measurably.
Critics of the Baltimore County program have also said cameras were simply a way for the county to generate more revenue, not to make roads safer.
In Howard County, Ulman would not give a specific dollar amount of how much the program would cost, but said he expects the costs of the program to be made up by money coming in from citations.
The law allows citations of $40, McMahon said, and, if cited, a driver will not accrue points on his or her driving record.
“Every single dollar that is generated” in citations, Ulman said, “will go back into traffic safety.”
If the legislation passes, each speeding citation would be reviewed by a police officer, McMahon said.
“Fixed cameras solve one problem in one neighborhood,” McMahon said. “With [mobile cameras] we have the flexibility to move to where the problems are.”
The legislation comes after the police department conducted a year-long study on speeding.
The study took place in about 100 school zones, and looked at roads over a two-day period between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., he said.
It found that 66 percent of vehicles were speeding, and about 18 percent of those were driving “near the limit set by state law for citations,” 12 mph faster than the speed limit.
A poll taken last year in Maryland showed general support for the idea of speed cameras in school zones. Of 816 residents polled, about two-thirds “strongly favor,” or “somewhat favor” their use.
Ed Chaney, who lives on Ilchester Road, is among those who support it.
At today’s announcement, he said he has stopped parents to confront them about their speed as they drive out of the Ilchester Elementary School parking lot.
He downloaded a radar gun application on his iPhone so that he can clock the speed of cars that drive by his house.
And he has even taken a cue from police officers:
“The neighbors, including myself," he said, "When we see someone speeding up and down this road, we actually step out into the road and make them stop."