Since 2009, automated cameras aimed at nabbing speeders have proliferated, pumping out more than 2.5 million tickets around Baltimore and yielding $70 million in fines. They can be inaccurate and the process unfair, the Baltimore Sun says. The evidence used to issue speed camera tickets is not nearly so unimpeachable as many drivers think. Officials have put cameras in locations that flout state guidelines calling for placement near schools. They recently shut down five of the devices, which generated 100,000 tickets, after being challenged about their compliance.
The speed camera system suffers from spotty government oversight and poor record-keeping. Data are mixed on whether the cameras have made roads safer. Among Sun findings: Tickets routinely fail to hold up in court because of glitches in the data, government inability to produce evidence, the failure by police to weed out bad citations, or obvious instances of motorists being wrongly accused. Nearly 6,000 tickets have been deemed erroneous because cameras were programmed with the incorrect speed limit or location address, or the equipment malfunctioned, resulting in several hundred thousand dollars in refunds and forgiven fines. While vehicle owners are mailed pictures that purport to show them speeding by at least 12 mph, the citations don't mention that most cameras record video that can exonerate drivers in court.