SALISBURY, MD – On Tuesday morning the Wicomico County Council will decide whether or not to approve speed zones for eight (8) schools and whether to allow speed cameras at four (4) additional schools. On the surface it looks like Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis is looking out for the kids. With all respect to Sheriff Lewis, this plan has nothing to do with safety and EVERYTHING to do with $$$$$$$.
It’s hard to blame Lewis. County Executive Rick Pollitt has been chipping away at the Sheriff’s budget for years. Sources in the GOB claim that Pollitt’s FY 2013 budget will cut an additional $200,000 from the Sheriff’s office, while (coincidentally) adding the same amount to the BOE’s budget. If we expect Sheriff Lewis to continue providing an adequate level of coverage he needs to make up the funding somewhere. Speed cameras seem to be the solution du jour.
Looking at the Sheriff’s proposed speed zones, we can see that the areas seem to focus as much on adjacent streets and subdivisions as it does the roads passing directly by the schools. Why? IF, as the Sheriff has claimed all along, this proposal is about school safety, why are he looking for permission to place speed cameras on roads not directly running by schools? The simple answer is “because he can”. State law permits the Sheriff’s office to define a speed zone as anywhere within 1/2 mile of a school.
That’s what is ALLOWED. That doesn’t mean the council has to approve the zones outlined by the Sheriff’s office. Restricting speed zones to roads which run by a school or where children are forced to cross makes sense (if you believe in speed cameras) makes sense. It also adds a LITTLE credence that this is about safety rather than dollars.
Regardless, we would appreciate a little honesty. Speed cameras are a revenue source. They are NOT a tool to increase the safety of school zones. If they were, they would be tripped at much lower speeds than 12 miles OVER the limit.