"We have already supplied the information of several citations with similar issue of erroneous high speed being recorded at Coldspring and Grand View, which is very difficult at this location," Sharma wrote in the email. The Sun obtained the email from Ron Ely, editor of the anti-speed camera blog StopBigBrotherMD. Xerox officials confirmed its authenticity, and Caviness confirmed his dealings with the city.

Barnes said Tuesday that Sharma's comment about "several citations" referred to seven.

In an interview Caviness said he would have fired the driver "in a heartbeat if I knew he was going that fast."

"It's a big responsibility driving a tractor-trailer and being accused of that type of speed," he said. "You've got an 80,000-pound missile."

Caviness says he always doubted the 70 mph citation was correct. For one thing, that truck has a device called a governor that keeps it from going faster than 65 mph. The city voided the ticket, he said.

According to Barnes, the city has received 19 requests to review tickets from the two Cold Spring cameras near Poly-Western. Eight were voided, five denied after review and six are pending. That represents just 0.2 percent of the 8,827 citations issued there since February, she wrote.

Barnes said the two Cold Spring cameras have recorded more than 11,000 instances of "unlawful speeding ... which is deeply troubling as the location is immediately adjacent to two large public schools."

"Sadly, hundreds of thousands of motorists are speeding in school zones throughout the city," she wrote. "It's dangerous, and we have an obligation to make our streets safe."

Among the thousands of citations Barnes mentioned was one issued to Daniel Rogers on Feb. 1 while he was on his way to a painting job. The citation alleged that he was going 63 mph, but The Sun determined – using two time-stamped photos from the camera and measuring the distance traveled on the pavement – that his car's actual speed was 27 mph.

Like many motorists, the Parkville resident simply paid the $40 rather than take what he figured was his only other option — challenging it in court. "I just started a new job after I got this ticket," Rogers said in an interview. "The amount of money I would lose fighting the thing would not be worth it."

As part of its new "reasonableness test," the city says all citations issued at Cold Spring Lane will be checked to make sure the photos match the radar.

Since the city is concerned with the safety of students at Poly and Western, Averella suggested officials post a police officer at Cold Spring to give out more expensive speeding tickets that carry points, while at the same time eliminating errors from the speed cameras.

"There are traditional enforcement actions that can be taken," Averella said. "The cameras are not humans and they can be prone to significant error."

Evidence of an erroneous ticket on Walther Avenue suggests the problems aren't limited to Cold Spring. Last month, Russell Wheatley got a ticket in the mail that said he had been speeding south on Walther at Glenmore Avenue the afternoon of Oct. 25.

"My initial reaction was, that can't be right," he said in an interview. "Going over it some more, I'm looking at these pictures, thinking, that definitely doesn't look right."

Wheatley is unemployed, "so $40 is a lot to me." He's also an engineer, and he used his training to scrutinize his citation, reaching a conclusion similar to a separate review by The Sun: He was not driving anywhere close to 56 mph.

He has contested the ticket.

scalvert@baltsun.com

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts