Gov. Parris N. Glendening and top state police officials warned yesterday that drivers who dare to exceed the new 65 mph speed limit on certain rural highways by even a tiny bit will be ticketed.
"This is a zero tolerance, no excuses, see-the-sign and drive 65 mph campaign," pledged Col. David Mitchell, Maryland State Police superintendent, at a Howard County news conference announcing the new speed limit on 265 miles of Maryland's rural interstates effective Saturday.
To that end, he warned, the state plans to put more troopers on the road at peak hours, armed with radar and laser speed detectors and with their overtime paid for in part by $50,000 in federal Department of Transportation funds.
"A lot of people think that the radar lady won't blink at nine miles [per hour] over the limit, but that won't happen at all," Colonel Mitchell said, voicing his faith in the radar detector. "It's 65 mph, and we want to keep it that way."
Said Mr. Glendening: "Troopers will be out enforcing the new limit without hesitation and ensuring the safety of the highways."
But drivers' rights advocates and groups opposed to radar speed detection doubt that police equipment is accurate enough to catch a large influx of drivers that go slightly over the limit.
"A radar just can't be counted on to be that accurate," said Chuck Terlizzi, coordinator of the Maryland chapter of the National Motorists Association, based in Gaithersburg.
"To hold people to the 65 mph level with no tolerance is totally unreasonable."
Mr. Terlizzi said that radars are wrong about 30 percent of the time, according to national studies, which he did not specify. He also said that "people will drive the most efficient speed possible on any highway. The effort to enforce the speed limit to the letter is just a misplaced effort."
But at yesterday's press conference at a truck weigh station in West Friendship, state officials said they are backing up tough talk with more enforcement.
Each of the 23 state police barracks will receive about $2,100 to pay officers for overtime shifts. The money will put at least 100 extra officers on the road over the July 4 holiday weekend and "at least several dozens [of officers]" after that, said state police spokesman Greg Shipley.
The penalties for driving 85 mph or more on a highway are a $500 fine and five points on the driver's license, police said.
Cpl. Rick Barilone, a motorcycle patrol officer in the Baltimore-Washington area, said that drivers who try to talk their way out of a ticket will get a cold reception.
"No matter what you make the speed limit, the excuses will remain the same for why people say they are speeding," he said. "But now you'll see more troopers taking more enforcement."
Police officials said they also will continue their aggressive campaign designed to stop tailgaters and careless drivers.