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Baltimore County on track to set speed camera ticket record, as drivers sped up on empty roads during pandemic

Baltimore County’s speed camera ticket citations are on track to set a record — in part, officials say, because drivers got more aggressive as more people stayed home during the pandemic.

The county has seen a 10% increase in speed camera violations this year, issuing 181,525 citations between January and Oct. 13, according to data obtained by The Baltimore Sun. During the same period last year, the county issued 164,042 citations.

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Speed camera revenue increased by nearly 38% during the first nine months of the 2020 fiscal year. More than $4.56 million in speeding fines were collected as of Aug. 31, up from more than $3.31 million during that time last year.

Speed camera citations are also rising in Baltimore City, though not quite as much. Citations were up by 7% to a total of 513,142 through September. Those citations generated more than $12 million in revenue, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

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Ragina C. Ali, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which represents nearly 1 million Maryland drivers, said she’s not surprised by the findings out of Baltimore County. Law enforcement agencies and traffic safety experts across the country and in Maryland have seen a significant increase in speeding when states were on lockdown during the pandemic, which set traffic volume "at record lows,” she said.

“A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that during the height of the pandemic, drivers were exhibiting more dangerous and risky driving behaviors, including speeding," Ali said.

Drivers are charged $40 if caught speeding by one of 89 camera locations in the county. An additional $15 fine is tacked onto citations that are 60 days overdue.

Baltimore County Police activated four additional speed cameras in school zones in July 2019. Last month, the police activated new speed cameras at Bedford Elementary School, Cockeysville Middle School, Summit Park Elementary School and Watershed Public Charter School. During the first 30 days after a camera is activated, motorists exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph will receive warnings rather than citations.

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Speeding camera citations increased in the county as pandemic shutdowns began in mid-March, and the reported violations spiked during the summer. July saw the most citations issued at 27,349.

County Police spokeswoman Sgt. Vickie Warehime said the data is a reflection of Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide coronavirus restrictions, which effectively reduced traffic “down to zero.”

“Without having any statistical data and just going on a common-sense approach," Warehime said, aggressive drivers were “allowed to flourish” because the only motorists on the road when the pandemic started were “essential workers and those who chose to violate the governor’s mandate."

Warehime said the department believes the citations were mostly issued to motorists who were “always aggressive” in their driving behavior. When the department receives and reviews its next round of citation data, she said, the department thinks the numbers will flatten because the increase in cars and traffic will prevent more aggressive driving.

The speeding cameras in the 9400 block of Lyons Mill Road in Owings Mills, Lasalle Road and Goucher Boulevard in Towson, and the 500 block of South Rolling Road in Catonsville generated more than $287,000, $250,600 and $236,000, respectively. Records show none of the cameras generated fines at those amounts last year.

The Baltimore County Council recently voted to use $224,600 in speed camera program revenue to fund 11 months of bias training for county police. The county is also using the program’s revenue to fund police personnel, body-worn camera equipment and maintenance, said Sean Naron, the county’s deputy communications director.

More than 40 jurisdictions in Maryland have added speed monitoring systems since the Maryland General Assembly approved the cameras in 2009, state data show.

Per state law, speed cameras in Baltimore County operate Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., including over the summer and on weekdays when school is not in session. The full list of speed camera locations in Baltimore County is available online.

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