Living in Baltimore is like living in a police state when it comes to traffic laws. There are high-volume citation-mailing signal and speed cameras everywhere around the city. Fines are $40 a pop for speeding, $75 for signal violations.
Started in 1999 and at one time the largest program in North America, it generated nearly $20M per year for the city.
But it was too good to be true. Amid complaints, investigations uncovered numerous problems, including tickets issued to stopped or slow-moving cars. Then, city officials acknowledged that, in 2011, their red light camera system issued about 2,000 tickets to motorists with a signature bearing the name of a dead police officer.
The city took its entire speed and red-light camera system offline in 2013.
Itching to get the program back in operation, the city restarted a smaller effort last year, with the potential for ‘only’ $8M worth of annual proceeds for the municipal treasury. Then, a few days ago, they announced they were doubling it.
It’s a real boon for the city coffers, and I guess I prefer it to more taxes, but it takes a lot of fun out of driving. I don’t dare run orange lights anymore, and once I learned all the camera locations, I’d lurch into and out of enforcement zones, temporarily tamping down my speed just enough to not get nabbed.
‘For the Children’
City officials claim the cameras are for road safety, that the revenue is just a convenient byproduct. They bolster this claim by pointing to the requirement that cameras be placed in ‘school zones’ only. It’s for the children, they say.
Which reminds me of when the state was attempting to legalize gambling, and they latched onto the clever idea of promising that Maryland’s portion of casino profits would be dedicated to public education. It’s for the children, they said. In referendums, voters approved slots gambling in 2008, and table games in 2012.
They kept that set-aside promise, but as casino money poured into education, Annapolis cut school funding from other sources. Schools are a little ahead, but not much. State Comptroller Peter Franchot has called the bait and switch a “lie.”
My Dodgy Record
I suppose the speed traps do cause law-abiding types to slow down a bit in certain areas, so maybe that’s a good thing.
But not for my wallet. Sensible speeding and signal avoidance is one of my few vices, and I’ve received a couple tickets since the program was reinstated last year. Not to mention a few under the old program.
Here they all are:
- Speeding on Howard St.
- Right turn on red without a full stop (who knew they could sense that?) on Erdman Ave.
- Right turn on red where it’s prohibited on Erdman Ave. (Different intersection, OK?)
- Speeding on highway in construction zone on I-95
- Speeding on The Alameda
- Running red light (barely, I might add) on Riva Rd. in Annapolis (why let Baltimore have all the fun?)
I know what you’re thinking: Barnaby is quite the menace, isn’t he? Not really, I don’t think. I’ve never run over any children – haven’t even clipped one.
Until a couple years ago, I’d never even been in an accident, and that wasn’t my fault. On the I-70 W interstate, a distracted tractor trailer driver didn’t notice a traffic backup and rear-ended a pickup truck, which rear-ended a minivan, which rear-ended me. A pretty light tap once the kinetic energy had become so exhausted, like me on a Friday.
My wife Nora is a cautious driver and seems to never run afoul of the automated kodachrome overlords.
Naturally, she resents my occasional traffic violation fines, so she says she is authorized to spend a matching amount on an out-of-budget splurge for herself – books or movies usually.
I can’t say her creative ‘punishment’ affects my driving much – it just makes me despise the lazy city police state even more, and question the financial wisdom of her punitive tactics. And her love for me. 🙂
I was prepared to live with her retributive policy until I learned about the US Postal Services’ free Informed Delivery program, where they email you images of the mail you will receive later that day.
I signed up for it and was generally underwhelmed by the ability to see all the junk mail before I actually touched it (doubling the time-waste), until I received the image of a speeding ticket.
I usually beat Nora home, but I left work even earlier that day. By the time she got home, I was whistling happily in the kitchen, preparing dinner. She pecked my check and purred in my ear. Yes, I could get used to this new harmony in our relationship.
I’m careful not to get too smug though; Icarus had many days of soaring through the expansive sky before his wings of feather and wax began to melt away.
Nora is resourceful and will exact redress. I don’t know how or when, but you can be assured that it will involve a number of books and movies.