A surprising voice speaks out

I have been a AAA member for many years, stretching back to my time in Ohio. Sure, they send me a lot of solicitations because I’m on their mailing list and quite honestly I can’t recall ever needing their services. But they may be key allies in one fight if we can nudge them over just a little bit more…

Dear Michael:

Enough is enough!  Many of Maryland’s speed camera programs are out of control. We’ve seen motorists in stationary vehicles get speeding tickets. Some jurisdictions have created “school zones” where there are no schools to operate speed cameras solely for profit. Baltimore City’s cameras were so riddled with problems that they were shut down. We need your help to stop the abuses of these poorly run programs and to put the focus back on safety – not making money.

ACT NOW  to help us get these programs fixed in 2014 by visiting the AAA Issues Action Center and sending a letter to your local Maryland legislators.  Tell them that they need to finish the job they left undone in 2013 and that you want fixing Maryland’s automated speed camera enforcement programs to be a priority of the 2014 General Assembly!  Help us protect you and all Maryland motorists from the abuses of the revenue-focused speed camera programs.

Lawmakers will be back in Annapolis on January 8.  Now is the time to tell your representatives that speed camera legislation reform must be a priority in 2014!

Thank you for your time and for being a valued voice with AAA. (All emphasis in original.)

They are so, so close to getting it, but they just can’t pull the trigger and say what really needs to be said – “we advocate a full repeal of this misguided law which isn’t about safety, but about revenue.” The word is not “reform,” it’s “repeal.”

If safety is really the issue, we should constantly hear about accidents between pedestrian school children and motorists throughout Maryland. Truth is, though, speed is rarely a factor in these accidents. This is from the Chicago Tribune:

The most common cause of the vehicle-pedestrian accidents was listed in police reports as drivers failing to yield, accounting for 4,284 of the 16,469 crashes over the five-year period that Chicago police reported to IDOT.

Only 117 of the crashes were attributed to driving over the speed limit, police reports show.

The city earlier this month completed initial testing of controversial speed cameras near two schools and two parks. (Chicago mayor Rahm) Emanuel’s administration is counting on raising at least $20 million from tickets issued to drivers by speed cameras to help balance the 2013 budget.

Emanuel has said he wants to protect children by setting up about 1,500 “safety zones” within one-eighth of a mile of schools and parks. Twelve safety zones were created last year and 50 more are scheduled this year, CDOT said.

But the relatively small number of speed-related crashes between vehicles and pedestrians raises questions about whether the streets around schools and parks are more dangerous for children than other locations and about the potential effectiveness of the speed camera technology to make streets safer where kids are present.

Even if you assume a portion of the sloppy reporting is because investigating police aren’t tabbing the speed of the driver, it’s unlikely that speed is the leading cause of these accidents. Apparently it would be better for that purpose to have a patrol car watching for drivers who are on their cell phones or otherwise being inattentive. But that’s just too hard, and it’s obvious Chicago is looking for the money, to the tune of $20 million.

So it’s disappointing that AAA is taking such a milquetoast stance on this issue when speed camera manufacturers are spending thousands of dollars in Maryland to counter any anti-camera legislation, in order to protect their slice of the pie. Remember, a significant portion of the fine paid by drivers goes to the camera operator.

And that’s why, even well after school hours or even on days when school’s not in session and no children are anywhere in the immediate vicinity, the speed cameras continue to operate. The moment the potential revenue stream was legalized by the state was the moment we heard the “safety” gimmick as an excuse for yet another cash grab by desperate local governments. If you’re a AAA member, tell the group that reform isn’t enough – only repeal of the scamera law will do.

A twist in the Sixth

There are two reasons I like the Maryland Juice website: one, because I like to keep tabs on what the opposition is doing, and two, I like the way it is written. Unlike certain recent commentators on this site, the author is willing to stand up for what he believes using his real name. I rarely agree with him, but I can respect his opinion.

David Moon related an interesting development on the Democratic side in the Sixth Congressional District race yesterday: it seems that Democratic candidate John Delaney is being raked over the coals for making a $2,400 contribution in 2010 to Congressman Andy Harris. (Yes, you read that right.)

But before you begin thinking, “hey, a Democrat with a little common sense,” there are a few caveats in play here.

Continue reading “A twist in the Sixth”