New state law has no effect on Wicomico’s speed cameras

 

A new law to monitor speed cameras in Maryland takes effect Sunday, but it won’t affect Wicomico County.

That’s because the county has regular audits and an ombudsman to discuss complaints and concerns with drivers who get speed camera tickets, Capt. Babe Wilson of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office said this week.

“Our sheriff has even given refunds in regard to complaints,” he said.

The new law requires speed camera jurisdictions appoint an ombudsman. In Wicomico, that’s Cpl. Brian Donohoe, Wilson said.

Speed camera tickets cost $40, with no points on the driver’s record, but many complain they have to take a day off work to dispute the ticket in court.

“If someone feels there’s been a malfunction or an issue, they can certainly call Cpl. Donohoe at the sheriff’s department,” Wilson said.

Audits are done by the county council’s internal auditor and details are available on the county’s Web site, Wilson said.

“We’ve been doing more than required for a long time. Most of the calls we get now are from people who have flags, asking how they can remove them” when they try to renew their licenses at the Maryland Vehicle Administration, he said. A driver could be unaware of an unpaid ticket if he fails to receive it in the mail or forgets to pay the fine, Wilson said.

The county has speed cameras in the areas of Glen Avenue Elementary School, Parkside High School, Pemberton Elementary School, Salisbury Christian School, Salisbury Middle School, West Salisbury Elementary School, Willards Elementary School, Pittsville Elementary School, Westside Primary School, Mardela Middle School, Mardela High School and Northwestern Elementary School.

AAA Mid-Atlantic championed the bill and issued a press release saying the bill will correct “abuses and errors that have been seen in Maryland with automated speed camera programs.”

The law will end “the bounty system,” and close the loophole “that has allowed camera vendors to be paid with a commission on each ticket in jurisdictions operating speed camera programs in school zones across the state,” according to the press release.

The law will:

*Prohibit cities from making “a vendor’s fee contingent on a per-ticket basis on the number of citations issued or paid,” the press release states.

*Make it illegal to put speed cameras in areas with speed limits of less than 20 miles per hour.

*Require that yearly calibration of speed cameras is done by an independent laboratory.

*Require speed camera contractors to pay damages to the jurisdiction if more than five percent of violations are false.

*Require the Maryland Police Training Commission, with the State Highway Administration, to develop a training program for speed camera monitoring.

*Require the Maryland Police Training Commission to make a report available by Dec. 31 each year.

Ragina Cooper-Averella of AAA Mid-Atlantic, supported the bill, stating in the press release, “We are hopeful that the Speed Camera Reform Act … will help restore the public’s trust in automated enforcement programs,” she said.

She added the bill will “hold jurisdictions and vendors who operate these programs accountable and, more importantly … slow motorists down in school zones and help keep school children safe.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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