Speed cameras are still ticketing Md. drivers even when schools are empty

Speed cameras in Montgomery -- including the one on River Road at Wilson Lane -- are the most lucrative in Maryland, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Even though the coronavirus has left many schools to be empty since March, AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding drivers that the cameras are still capturing speeders in school zones.

Speed cameras last year in Maryland brought in more than $60 million, and in Montgomery County from April to September of this year, nearly 150,000 speed camera tickets were issued even if classes were not in session, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Montgomery County speed cameras captured drivers speeding in emptied school zones and on roads in excess of 80 mph and even 100 mph. To combat this, the county is now seeking to double its number of automated traffic enforcement cameras.

In 2020, about 243,413 speed camera tickets were issued to drivers from January to September by the Montgomery County Police Department. That tally includes 147,987 speed camera tickets issued from April to September when many schools were empty due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The average speed camera ticket is about $40 in school zones across Maryland, AAA said.

Speed camera tickets are a big source of revenue in Maryland, generating more than $346 million in gross revenue statewide from Fiscal Year 2014 to Fiscal Year 2019, according to data from the Maryland Comptroller’s Office and the Department of Legislative Services.

“In this unusual school year, the school zone speed cameras are still generating tickets for 14 hours each instructional day, Monday through Friday, catching some motorists unawares,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public & Government Affairs.

“Yet jurisdictions have a duty to warn motorists that school zone speed cameras are still in operation during the pandemic, and motorists must refrain from speeding in school zones even when they think no one is present.”

The City of Bowie said its speed cameras are continuing to operate between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday even when school is not in session. The Bowie Police Department reports it operates 28 speed cameras in school zones in its footprint.

Prince George’s County Public Schools placed restrictions on the use of school buildings during the pandemic, but in the meantime, speed cameras carry on giving out citations during enforceable days and hours countywide. AAA said that speed cameras are operational in 46 other areas statewide.

Under state law in Maryland, “a speed monitoring system” may be placed in a school zone for operation between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Officials said operating school zone speed cameras all year is about keeping the roads safe, according to AAA.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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