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Pedestrian Issues in Annapolis

Last year, Del. Bill Bronrott (D-16) sponsored a bill to allow local jurisdictions to install cameras to help catch motorists who were violating traffic laws.

The bill passed but was vetoed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R). “We’re coming back with a bill that’s a little bit different,” Bronrott said.

This time around, the bill is much more narrowly crafted. It will only apply to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and their municipalities. It will only allow the cameras to be installed in residential areas and school zones where the speed limit is less than 35 miles per hour.

The bill will also include a sunset provision which will allow it to last for five years, at which time the participating jurisdictions will report back on the program.

“It is a pilot program to give us the opportunity to try the technology again,” Bronrott said.

The jurisdictions which install the cameras will get to keep the money generated by the fines imposed on the drivers, but Bronrott doesn’t think the bill is about money.

“Our goal is safety and deterrence,” he said. “This is to restore safety and stability in our residential streets and our school zones.”

Bronrott points out that drivers who go through tollbooths without paying are photographed. “The state is already engaged in photo enforcement,” Bronrott said.

BRONROTT IS ALSO working on a bill which he thinks will increase enforcement by lessening penalties. Currently, he said, not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a jailable offense.

This means that motorists cited for it must appear in court. In theory, Bronrott finds that perfectly acceptable. The problem is that if the driver who was cited must appear in court, so must the officer who cited them. “Every time they write a ticket, they have to go to court,” he said. “They would do it more [issue citations] if they had that freedom, if they weren’t tied up in court.”

The new bill will remove the “jailable offense” aspect from not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk and turn it into a more typical moving violation.

The crime would still carry a fine of up to $500 and one point on the drivers license. Those cited for the crime could still choose to contest the citation and appear in court, or they could simply pay the fine as if it were a speeding ticket.

“We think that by loosening up the noose a little bit, we can get more enforcement,” Bronrott said.

The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last Friday, and will have to pass the full House before moving to the Senate.