Officials say cameras are all about safety
Sun photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor
The most common complaint about speed cameras -- besides the tired nonsense about Big Brother -- is that they're just a "money grab" by the government that will have no effect on safety.
Several high-ranking transportation and law enforcement officials in state government addressed that issue Wednesday at a news conference called to outline Maryland's plans to deploy the cameras in highway work zones.
Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley (at podium), State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen (the tall man on the right) and Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Marcus Brown (right center background) all vigorously argued that the camera program is all about safety.
Pedersen said he would be "absolutely delighted" if so few motorists violated the law that the fines couldn't cover the cost of the enforcement program. He said his agency will do all it can to make sure drivers are not surprised by a speed camera zone -- with oversize signs and electronic readers that tell motorists how fast they are going.
"It will be very difficult for a motorist not to realize a speed enforcement zone is ahead," he said.
Swaim-Staley said simply that she would be happy "if no one has to pay a fine because of this program."
Brown said the cameras will help officers with enforcement in work zones, where closed shoulders and altered traffic patterns can make it dangerous for officers to make a traffic stop.
"For law enforcement, this is not a money matter. The ultimate goal is to affect behavior," he said.
Speed camera foes are not likely to be persuaded. To them it's an article of faith that public officials couldn't possibly be interested in saving the lives of highway workers, motorists and passengers.
One person at the news conference who didn't share the opponents' cynicism was Lairie Moser, whose SHA employee husband was killed by a negligent driver on a highway ramp in Frederick County. She said Rick Moser was 57 when he was hit at 60 mph and thrown 175 feet through the air. His widow has since become an activist on work zone safety and testified before the General Aseembly in support of the law now taking effect.
Moser said criitics of the law might take a different view if they shared her experiences.
"If these people were living my llife they might place a different value on speed cameras," she said. "I would ask them to imagine telling a 10-year-old boy that he'll never see his father again."