The Maryland General Assembly 2011 session is over. The amount of great bills passed that will really serve the citizens of Maryland was just incredible. (I know, I know… perhaps I exaggerate a bit. The alcohol tax was a good idea, it just should have been higher.) One bill passed that I support and I think is interesting. Local municipalities may now use cameras to catch motorists speeding past stopped school buses. Violators will get a ticket with a penalty of up to a $250 fine, but no points on their driving records. Montgomery County has had cameras in place for a while but they were just giving out warning tickets. This bill has some teeth, albeit little baby teeth without any points attached.
This bill was precipitated in part by a Maryland State Department of Education study that found that thousands of drivers in the state are passing school buses with their stop arms extended and their red lights flashing. A total of 7,028 violations were recorded on a single day last month. Nearly 4,000 (3,997) of those motorists were oncoming drivers who ignored the stop arm, 2,665 drivers moved past a stopped bus on the bus driver’s side of the vehicle, and 366 drivers passed a stopped bus on the door side, right where you would expect a child to be walking. Baltimore County drivers are the worst offenders, followed by Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s.
(Now keep in mind, all of this data comes from school bus drivers who, as a breed, think we are all idiots and don’t belong on the road. So let’s say they are exaggerating by a factor of 10. It is still a staggering number.)
Maryland legislators who dislike speed cameras were put into a bit of a pickle with this bill. Some detest speed cameras on deeply held anti-Big Brother values. These legislators either decided the principle of protecting kids was paramount or that the politics of protecting kids necessitated a ‘yes’ vote. Either way, the bill passed the Maryland Senate 38-7 and the House of Delegates 124-14.