Traffic signs causing confusion in Montgomery County

This sign on Germantown Road is causing a stir. (Courtesy Bryant Pomrenke)

DARNESTOWN, Md. – A speed camera and the signs next to it on Germantown Road are causing some confusion.

Located just north of Md. 28 near Seneca Academy, the camera is legal. But a sign says “Fines Double” underneath the speed limit.

Bryant Pomrenke, who lives near the speed camera, emailed WTOP TicketBuster to ask about the sign.

“I have not been able to find any basis for them to double the fine from $40 ticket to $80. Is there a law or situation in Maryland that allows that? I have seen these doubled fine signs going up in other places too and I am trying to figure out what situation allows them to double the fine,” he writes in the email.

Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone, who runs the speed and red light camera program, tells WTOP that while he understands the confusion, speed camera tickets are always $40.

“The fines from the speed cameras never double. But under Maryland law, regular speeding tickets in school zones can double. So if an officer is writing a ticket in a school zone, the signs mean that the fines for that regular officer citation could double. It’s just unfortunate that these signs are place one on top of each other,” he says.

Didone says that Montgomery County Police Department doesn’t have the power to fix the problem because Germantown Road is a state road (Md. 118), not a county road. The Maryland State Highway Administration controls the signs, not the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

“Yeah, it could be confusing. But it’s a state roadway, so we wanted to make sure people knew it was photo enforced, they wanted to reinforce that it’s a school zone, so we apologize for any confusion. Just know speed camera tickets will not double, but if an officer pulls you over, it can double,” says Didone.

The Maryland State Highway Administration says it will look into the issue, after WTOP sent it the same picture shown in this story.

“It is more than likely the speed limit sign was in place first, then the county installed the automated enforcement cameras. SHA will work with Montgomery County on this and any other signs that might contribute to any confusion. If you have a picture of this particular sign issue, it would be helpful so we can forward to our engineers to take a look,” says Dave Buck, spokesman for the agency.

Didone tells WTOP there are a few other locations where similar confusing signsa are posted near speed cameras. Dialogue has begun about whether there is a solution, although the “photo enforced” message is necessary under Maryland law for speed cameras and the “fines doubled” message is required under Maryland law to increase the fines.

“This is not unique. It happens. It’s just two different people trying to do the right thing, adding a little confusion,” says Didone.

Pomerenke tells WTOP that he hopes the signs are changed, but is happy WTOP got him an answer.

“I am no fan of speed cameras because I think they are mostly revenue generators and very rarely improve public safety, but I have to admit that since this one went up here they have stopped the Medevac flights from the corner of 118 (Germantown Road) near 28. We used to average 2-3 flights a year from car crashes before the cameras were put in,” says Pomerenke.

“In the last couple of years, I do not remember seeing any. I think people drove down 118 at 50 mph forgot about the 28 interchange until it was too late causing really bad accidents there. Now they get flashed beforehand and slow down,” he says.

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