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Audit finds problems with Maryland's speed camera program

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Photo - A speed camera in Silver Spring (Examiner file photo)
A speed camera in Silver Spring (Examiner file photo)
Local,Maryland,Transportation,Ben Giles

More than half of the violations recorded during a test run of a Maryland program that places speed cameras in work zones were unusable and cost the state about $850,000 in lost ticket revenue, according to an audit.

At its outset in 2009, the program lacked measures assuring the accuracy of the speed cameras, according to a report by the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits.

And for the first nine months Maryland SafeZones was in operation, there was never an independent audit of the speed-monitoring system, according to the audit.

SafeZones launched as a pilot program in 2009, when two speed camera-equipped vehicles were placed in work zones throughout the state. The State Highway Administration, or SHA, failed to establish performance benchmarks for the contractor, Affiliated Computer Services, during the cameras' test run, according to the audit.

Between October 2009 and June 2010, only 44 percent of the 133,620 violations captured by ACS speed cameras resulted in citations or warnings, according to auditors.

The other 56 percent of the violations were unusable, the audit said, and revenue from the program fell about $850,000 short of what ACS had estimated.

Cameras are now operating in 13 work zones throughout the state, according to SHA spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar.

In fiscal 2011, the SHA reported that the program had a 93 percent success rate out of 602,800 violations captured by the speed cameras -- meaning about 560,604 citations and warnings were issued during that time.

But that figure doesn't include an additional 152,800 violations captured that the contractor said were unusable for reasons beyond its control -- for instance, a speeding vehicle's license plate is obstructed from view by another vehicle.

And equipment used in the program's infancy didn't conform with the International Association of Chiefs of Police guidelines, a condition that was supposed to be followed in the contract, according to the audit.

Xerox has since acquired ACS and still runs the SafeZones program, according to state officials. The company, in response to the audit, defended the program as an effective way to make work zones safer. And none of the audit's findings were based on violations of Maryland statutes or internal SHA policies, Edgar said.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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