- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said yesterday that a study of speed-monitoring cameras "may be very worthwhile."
But Mrs. Townsend, a Democrat who hopes to be governor next year, will likely have to wait for any move toward radar cameras: The chairman of the Senate committee that controls the fate of such measures says it won't happen this year.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's dead," said Sen. Walter M. Baker, an upper Eastern Shore Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which will determine whether proposals to bring radar cameras to Maryland go to the full Senate.
Mr. Baker said he's opposed to any "foot in the door for a bad bill."
"If they want to come up with a bill that doesn't violate the equal-protection clause [of the U.S. Constitution] but I don't play 'what if,'" said Mr. Baker, noting that photo enforcement of traffic laws creates a double standard.
Persons cited for violations caught with cameras are charged fines, but nothing goes on their driver's record and the citation is not used to raise his or her insurance rates. But someone cited for the same violation by a police officer who writes a ticket typically gets hit with a fine, points against his or her license and higher insurance rates.
Mr. Baker's opposition means that the House is unlikely to rewrite a similar proposal into a pilot program for radar cameras, said Delegate James E. Malone Jr., chairman of the Commerce and Government Matters motor vehicles subcommittee.
"I think there's some concern as to having speeding cameras everywhere," said Mr. Malone, a Democrat who represents Baltimore and Howard counties.
Howard County's executive and police chief had asked to at least be allowed to introduce the cameras on a trial basis. Montgomery County's executive and Baltimore's mayor also want permission to install them.
Initially, Howard County wanted to put the radar cameras in school zones because the county cannot afford to place police traffic patrols at every school, Mr. Malone said.
Mr. Baker said he's worried about machines taking the place of people. He's also bothered by the fact that vendors who run the traffic-camera programs make a commission on the fines they generate.
"We need to take a look at that issue," Mr. Baker said.
As a career firefighter and paramedic, Mr. Malone said he believes that red-light cameras already operating in 16 Maryland jurisdictions have made intersections safer.
And Mr. Malone said he disagrees with Mr. Baker's assessment that photo enforcement is really a money-making scheme.
"But if that is how the senator feels, then maybe this is not something we should take up this year," Mr. Malone said.
Mr. Baker said he's also concerned about the duration of yellow caution lights at intersections with red-light cameras. He said he'll ask the Maryland Department of Transportation to review the length of yellow lights at those intersections and ensure that the signal lasts long enough to allow people traveling the posted speed limit to stop.
But he said he doesn't believe it's necessary to mandate a four-second minimum for yellow lights, as is proposed in a bill before his committee.

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