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Maryland speed-camera petition falls just short of certification

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June 24, 2009

Maryland: Maryland citizens just barely failed to attain the number of signatures required to have their petition to put the state's new speed-camera law to a referendum. Out of the 53,000 signatures required to get the referendum to the ballot, "Maryland for Resonsible Enforcement," the group which organized the petition, fell fewer than 2,000 signatures short of the mark, failing to hand in the final third of the signatures by the first deadline. The new law, officially titled SB-277, will take effect in October, allowing local jurisdictions to put speed-monitoring devices near schools and highway work zones. Drivers caught 12 mph over the speed limit will be susceptible to fines up to $40. Proponents of the new law maintain that these efforts will save lives by acting as a deterrent to unruly motorists. Baltimore County police chief James W. Johnson put it simply, saying, "Our citizens want motorists to slow down." Upon seeing a pickup truck pass by the front of a school, he added, "Look at that guy. You think he's doing 25? No way!"[1]

The referendum group, however, has retained their staunch opposition to the act, claiming it is nothing more than a quick source of income for local governments. Group founder Daniel Zubairi said just after the petition failed that "Over the past few weeks many Marylanders have expressed their utter disdain, ranging from anger over it being another tax to concern over an increased big-brother 1984 police state." Co-founder and executive director Justin Shuy made similar remarks, saying "There's no due process; it's you versus the machine."[2] Citing Maryland's notoriously difficult petition and referendum process, both men vowed that they would not end their efforts to ban speed-cameras.

Such efforts, however, might be shortlived, and not only because of Maryland's difficult petition process. County officials say that in Montgomery County, where speed-cameras have been in place since 2007, has seen a 63% decreasein fatal accidents. The same cannot be said of other counties which have not installed the devices: nearby Howard and Virginia's Fairfax have seen a 17% and 57% increase in fatal accidents, respectively. Montgomery County Police Captian John Damskey put it succinctly when he said "They've made a profound impact on driver behavior, and that's our goal. A 63 percent decrease is a stat you can't ignore."[3]

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