Maryland Safe Zone

We’ve all been pulled over for speeding at one time or another. Or at least most of us have. And wether or not we actually were in violation of the posted speed limits, each of us has faced our accuser, had a chance to plead our case, and ultimately given our day in court. It’s a pretty fair system.

What happens though, a full month after a trip through the state of Maryland? Some of us get a letter from The Maryland Safe Zones Automated Speed Monitoring System. They send a picture of the car, and the speed at which it was supposedly traveling. They tell you that you owe them 40 bucks, and that’s the end of it. Unless you want to plead your case.

At this point, the problems are minimal. Mostly, drivers are wondering why they are only being informed now, long after any potential memory of the supposed incident would be gone. We drivers also want to know how a single picture, taken by an automated camera, with no human involvement whatsoever, is any sort of proof that the vehicle was in violation of the posted speed limit.

Suckers pay. The rest of us, innocent or not, fight the charges, hopefully for a reduction or elimination of the fine, and at the very least, for piece of mind. This is where the system flaws really shine. Firstly, the customer service is atrocious. Operators are under-informed, and when you are promised a call back from so-and-so, no call ever comes. With research, other people can be reached by phone or mail, but beware, the phone numbers are not always right, and people will claim to have never received your letter. E-mail works best, but do not expect any straight answers.

Information that was given to me by someone who must remain nameless for legal reasons, stated that an experiment at The University of Maryland is being conducted on the effectiveness of the system. The research is not yet complete. There was no explanation as to why an untested system was put into use. This same individual told me that, ” We have multiple review steps in our citation process to reduce the potential for issuing any citation in error. If an image is captured by the automated system that does not meet all of the criteria for citation issuace, no citation is issued.” While it is nice to know that certain steps are being taken, I personally do not like the word, “reduce.” There should be NO error.

The worst part of all, is that none of this really matters anyway, because anyone who is accused of speeding must either pay, or appear personally in court. Court appearances can only be at 9 AM, and they simply will not have any manner of remote hearing. For almost anyone who does not live in Maryland, this means that more money must be spent proving innocence, than what would be paid as a fine.

My last note, which shall serve as a conclusion, is that while I do not feel that Maryland is targeting out of state drivers, there is nothing stopping them from just sending a speeding ticket to every single car that passes through one of their automated speed enforcement zones, knowing that evidence is unnecessary, everyone will have no choice but to pay, and that the few of us willing to fight for our constitutional rights can be given the run around until it is too late. It is time for Maryland to start being fair.