Damascus man challenges Ridge Road speed camera
Construction obscures warning signs
Paul Layer of Damascus was surprised when he got a ticket in the mail in early December for speeding in the 27000 block of Ridge Road in Damascus.
Construction in the area, where Woodfield Road extended will meet Ridge Road north of town, has obscured a speed camera behind barrels marking closed lanes, and Layer thought the camera was turned off.
Construction zones are dangerous and that makes slowing traffic even more important, said Capt. Thomas C. Didone, head of the Montgomery County Police Department Traffic Division.
"Although the construction makes it a little difficult to see, it's a very valid camera," he said. "Crashes in work zones are a huge concern."
Layer, a constitutional lawyer for the federal government, did a little research and decided the camera was illegal. State statute is specific about the placement of speed cameras and warning signs, he said.
"You can't have a speed camera on a road that is anything other than 35 mph because of the way it's worded," Layer said.
The Ridge Road camera is in a 30 mph zone.
"When the legislature wants to say 35 mph or less or more, they know how to say it," he said.
The county attorney reviewed the legislation when it became law and came to a different conclusion, Didone said.
Layer's reading is "contrary to everybody else's interpretation," he said.
The speed camera was placed in the 27000 block of Ridge Road in February 2009 at the recommendation of a citizens advisory board, Didone said.
Warning signs should be posted within six feet of the roadway, Layer said. There is only one sign on southbound Ridge Road and it is immediately before the camera, he said.
"They moved the roadway in early December and never moved the sign," Layer said. "Northbound, all the contextual clues drivers would see indicate they're not running the camera. Signs are way off to the side of the road."
The stripes in the road that indicate where the camera takes pictures are in the section that is closed for construction.
Layer has a point on the signs, Didone said.
"We discovered during construction the construction company removed one of the signs, but the others are in place," he said. "I want to personally thank the gentleman for bringing that to our attention."
The missing sign will be replaced before the end of the week, Didone said.
Even without one of the signs on the southbound side of the road, the number of warning signs is still appropriate, he said.
Layer contested his ticket and was told on Feb. 9 it had been voided because his license plate was not clearly visible.
Since the license plate was clear enough to track Layer down to mail him the citation, he suspects it was voided to stop him from challenging the camera.
He submitted a Public Information Act request to check whether the county is using the camera to increase its revenue.
"What burns me up is people get these tickets, don't know any better and just pay the tickets," Layer said.
By the numbers
Citations from the speed camera in the 27000 block of Ridge Road in Damascus:
-January-February 2010 1,381
-January-February 2011 1,586
Source: Montgomery County Police