4/8/2016Maryland Speed Camera Falsely Accuses School Bus
Rockville, Maryland admits radar error caused a school bus to receive a bogus speed camera ticket.
A school bus passing slowly through Rockville, Maryland was photographed by the speed camera on Baltimore Road on December 11. Two weeks later, the Montgomery County Board of Education received a copy of the image in the mail along with a demand for $40 since the "Board of Education" was traveling 54 MPH in a 25 MPH zone, according to a copy of the $40 citation obtained by the Maryland Drivers Alliance (view ticket).
The driver's rights group uncovered a disturbing pattern in which motorists who complain about the accuracy of a ticket to the local speed camera ombudsman -- a position created by state law -- all receive the same response in a form letter.
"The operator's set up log indicates that the necessary manufacturer-specified self-test, including a tuning fork test, was performed at the beginning and at the end of the unit's operational period to ensure the unit's functionality," Rockville Police Major Michael England writes in the form letter. "Based on the operator's set up log, operator's training certificate and speed monitoring system annual calibration certificate, the unit was functioning correctly at the time of the violation."
Major England then proceeds to reject all accuracy challenges from private citizens. A list of all forty citations voided since January 2015 confirms that the only citations ever rejected involve instances in which Xerox, the company that operates the cameras, read the license plate incorrectly and accused the wrong vehicle owner. The only exception is the Rockville school bus.
"This request to void this citation comes from the Montgomery County Police directly and indirectly from the school board," Xerox employee Clarence Bell wrote in a January 21 email. "As I understand and supported by bus telematics, the bus was not violating and the large surface area of the bus reflected the radar beam onto vehicles moving in the opposite direction, which presented the 'shift.' The system measured that shift and calculated a higher speed than the bus was actually traveling. This is a known possibility and we should have caught it in processing... Should you choose to void the citation, please let me know as I understand the school board paid by credit card."
As with the other citations, records for the Baltimore Road speed camera show that the operator's set up log, operator's training certificate and speed monitoring system annual calibration certificate were all in order at the time of the alleged violation. The Maryland Drivers Alliance argues that this is evidence that the current system is fundamentally flawed.
"Had this citation been disputed in court, the above documents would have been admitted as evidence," the group explained. "Given that all of the documentation for this particular citation was seemingly in order, a defendant who didn't happen to be operating a vehicle on behalf of a local government would have had absolutely no chance disputing this ticket by claiming the device was in error. It is highly unlikely that a motorist driving a privately owned car would have been afforded any benefit of the doubt by either Rockville or Montgomery County in such a situation."