Residents want stiffer penalties for speeding on Md. 210, area’s deadliest road

Maryland Route 210 has a well-earned reputation for being the deadliest road in the D.C. area.
Maryland Route 210 has a well-earned reputation for being the deadliest road in the D.C. area. (WTOP/John Domen)

Maryland Route 210 has a well-earned reputation for being the deadliest road in the D.C. area. The 13-mile stretch of highway — mostly straight, occasionally congested and perennially under construction — has seen dozens of deaths over the last decade.

The addition of speed cameras in 2019 has made it somewhat safer, but a grassroots group that has long lobbied for a safer highway says more needs to be done.

Standing along the intersection that was the scene of 210’s most recent deadly crash, members of the Route 210 Traffic Safety Committee estimated that adding three speed cameras to the highway has resulted in a major reduction in speeding — noting that they sent out around 5,000 warnings in the first 30 days they were there, and now dole out 2,000 to 3,000 tickets every month.

Last year, more than 33,000 tickets were issued to drivers caught going at least 12 mph over the 55 mph limit. But each carried a $40 fine, regardless of how fast anyone was going. In recent years, at least one driver was caught going at least 161 mph, said Rev. Robert Screen, who leads the safety committee.

“The person who is caught doing 161 mph pays the same $40 fine as someone who is doing 68 mph,” he said. “Thus the mockery and lack of any type of deterrent factor to motivate a change in behavior.”

If Screen and other members of the committee have their way, a bill introduced again by Del. Susie Proctor would change that. They want to see fines assessed by speed cameras indexed with what one would pay if they actually got pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket.

He said in situations when someone is pulled over doing speeds in excess of 100 mph, the fines associated with the offenses could approach four figures.

“There’s no one silver bullet that will be an answer for the recklessness, the reckless driving behavior incurred on this highway,” said Screen. “But we also know … when there is a big enough bite in the pocketbook, sensibility somehow enters the mindset.”

He also argued for higher fines for those who repeatedly get caught by the same cameras.

“We need to stop killing each other on our roads,” said Ron Weiss, who has also long lobbied for safety improvements on Route 210. “In Prince George’s County, violent crime is increasing with 109 homicides last year. Last year, 127 people died on our roads in our county. Isn’t that violent? Last year 547 people died on roads in our state. Isn’t that violent?

“In the U.S., over 94% of transportation fatalities were on our roads. That’s violence,” Weiss continued. “The riskiest part of our air travel is the trip to and from the airport.”

In the last 11 years, “there have been 45 people killed out of 39 fatal accidents” on Maryland Route 210, said Screen.

“What are we doing?” said Weiss. “Some of us are driving much too fast, aggressively, distracted, impaired and putting everyone’s life in danger. We need to stop them and change their behavior.”

He called for drivers to start valuing life, being kind and slowing down.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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