Maryland bill would shrink school zones, speed camera placement

School zones and speed cameras near schools are intended to slow drivers down and keep children safe.

Now, Maryland lawmakers are considering changes that could save drivers from having to pay out for tickets.

A new bill being considered in the Maryland General Assembly would reduce the radius of school zones — and thus, the area around a school where speed monitoring systems can be placed — from the current one-half of a mile, down to one-tenth of a mile.

Baltimore County State Sen. Charles Sydnor, who introduced the bill, told the Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday, “I just began to question why the radius would be so large, and having cameras such a distance from a school, if the cameras were truly about making sure the children who were walking to the schools were safe.”

Sydnor said some jurisdictions were using school zone regulations to enable them to install speed cameras for general speed control.

“The reality is, I believe some of our jurisdictions, rather than using school zone cameras to protect children, you have neighbors or community members who want speed cameras, so they use the [school zone] law, so they have a half mile.”

Sydnor referred to a school zone speed camera posted on Route 40, on a bridge, with no school in sight.

Sydnor said school zones are intended to provide safety for students in kindergarten through high school: “Why are school zone cameras sitting next to Johns Hopkins University — it’s not a K-12 school.”

Safety advocates testifying at the hearing rejected the argument from some panel members that school zone speed cameras are a money-grab.

If the bill eventually passes, beside providing less revenue to the jurisdiction due to a reduction in speed cameras, jurisdictions or the company that owns and maintains the speed ticket equipment would need to relocate existing cameras and tweak infrastructure around current school zones.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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