Questions surround red-light cameras in Baltimore

Red-light cameras at the intersection of Scott Adam Road and York Road in Cockeysville.

 
By Michael Huber
 
 

Red-Light cameras are here to protect Maryland drivers, but those opposed to the new technology fear that the true reason for their installment is simply to collect revenue.

One study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, confirms that Maryland did indeed reduce its fatal crashes from 14 in the first study period, 1992-1996; to 11 after the implementation of red-light cameras in the second study period, 2004-2008.

According to the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, the city has experienced a 60 percent decline in red-light fines dispersed at those intersections where the red-light cameras have been installed.

The state uses these statistics to advocate the use of traffic cameras, but the skeptics remain steadfast in questioning the hidden importance of the cameras for the state’s financial budget.

In 2009 Baltimore City’s camera provider, Affiliated Computer Services filed a lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions, another camera provider, over the rights to Baltimore City’s red-light cameras.  According to court records from the suit, Baltimore’s Chief Solicitor, Michael S. Elder said,

“Any interruption in the operation of the system will deprive the city of revenues that are desperately needed for essential functions in the current economic climate…”

The organization StopBigBrotherMD.org is one group that is opposing the cameras and their function within the state.  With each red-light violation costing $75.00, the group aims to combat the cameras instituted by the state and informs the public of unnecessary revenue collecting.

Robert Delaney, a Baltimore City resident and advocate of StopBigBrotherMD.org notes that cameras are imperfect and that people may be charged unfairly.

“For example, one camera on Cold Spring Lane in the City was set for the incorrect speed limit, which resulted in 932 citations that were mailed to violators.  It’s this type of technological enforcement that is just not fair,” said Delaney.

The intersection of Cold Spring Lane and Springlake Avenue in Baltimore

Although the city voided all tickets in that incident, this type of error is not only a worry to Baltimore residents, but a headache to the city and state.

After receiving an automated violation in the mail this January, William Crowther’s Nissan Altima was photographed in the middle of the Dulaney Valley Road and Seminary Avenue intersection after the light had turned from yellow to red.

“If we the people are paying tax money for the cameras to be bought, and we the people are paying the violations caught by the cameras, shouldn’t we be curious about the state’s agenda?”  said William Crowther, Timonium resident.

Crowther said he was attempting to make a left hand turn onto Seminary Avenue.  He pulled past the stop line to turn, when a car coming down Dulaney Valley Road sped through the intersection to make the yellow light.  Crowther, in the middle of the intersection, was then photographed as he was turning onto Seminary Avenue.

“There’s no appeal process with red-light tickets, only an address and an amount due in violation.  They show you a photograph of your vehicle and the light, and that’s that, mandatory $75 fine.”

Although the director of the Transportation/Red-Light Camera program, Khalil A. Zaied was unavailable for direct comment, one of his public relation specialists, Adrienne Barnes offered little information that is not already on the Baltimore City website.

“Yes, the citations are reviewed by officials and police officers before the tickets are mailed.” said Barnes.  “And yes you can contest a citation, just like any other moving violation.”

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