Monday, March 12, 2007

County, cities unveil speed camera program

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett addresses the crowd gathered for the Monday morning unveiling of Montgomery’s new Safe Speed program, designed to catch motorists speeding through residential and school zones.
Police and municipal leaders gathered at Meadow Hall Elementary School in Rockville this morning to launch Montgomery County’s Safe Speed program, which Montgomery County Police officials say is Maryland’s first automated speed enforcement program.

County Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger said the state granted authority to the county in 2006 to operate the cameras as part of the pilot speed limit enforcement program in residential areas and school zones with speed limits of 35 mph or less.

Similar automated speed enforcement programs are also being initiated in Chevy Chase Village and the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg.

Capt. Thomas Didone, commander of Montgomery County’s Fifth District, said the Safe Speed program will initially involve six mobile speed enforcement vans equipped with radar cameras. The mobile units, he said, will rotate through designated speed enforcement zones, which meet the location and speed requirements.

For now, he said, the vans would be running in morning and evening shifts, six days a week, and it is possible that additional shifts could be added ‘‘as the need arises.”

‘‘They will be attended vehicles and we will be looking to install fixed cameras after we identify the locations most in need,” Didone said.

The cameras, which sit on each of the vans’ dashboards, will photograph vehicles traveling more than 10 mph above the posted speed limit. Today marks the beginning of a 30-day period during which violators will be issued warnings by mail. On April 11, violators will begin receiving citations carrying a $40 penalty.

Manger said the citations would be reviewed to verify the violation and processed to determine the registered owner. The registered owner of the vehicle will receive the citation.

No license points will be assigned and insurance companies will not be notified. Citations can be contested in Maryland District Court.

At this time, he said, close to 40 roadways have been identified by police and members of citizen advisory boards as locations for speed cameras. Additional sites have been identified in Chevy Chase Village, Rockville and Gaithersburg.

‘‘Our goal is safer streets,” Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said Monday morning during the program’s unveiling. ‘‘Speeding is a serious traffic problem that increases the risks of crashes, injuries and deaths. With the introduction of the Safe Speed program, we intend to make Montgomery County safer for both pedestrians and motorists.”

Locations of the cameras and more information about the program can be found on the new Safe Speed Web site at⁄poltmpl.asp?url=⁄content⁄pol⁄ask⁄speed.asp.