4 village boards back bill on cameras at intersections Runners of red lights would be recorded, fined

March 07, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Four of five west Columbia village boards are supporting a bill before the General Assembly that would allow police to use cameras to record the license plates of vehicles that run red lights, and then to fine their owners.

The move came at the urging of Mary Lorsung, county councilwoman for the area, who visited five Columbia village boards west of U.S. 29 last month. Four of the boards have voted to support the legislation and have written letters to delegates in Annapolis.

Howard County has video cameras in operation at two intersections: at Little Patuxent Parkway and Columbia Road, and at Broken Land Parkway and Stevens Forest Road. Since November, the owners of vehicles recorded running red lights have been receiving warning letters.

Jane Parrish, manager of Hickory Ridge village, said her board voted unanimously to support the bill to fine vehicle owners. "This is such a major issue," Parrish said. "There wasn't even any debate, really.

"We commonly have accidents when people run red lights in Hickory Ridge," she said. "Over by the hospital, it is quite bad, and the left-turners on Broken Land and Little Patuxent Parkway -- that's the worst. My jaw drops open when I see these drivers just going through the light."

The legislature is expected to vote on the issue within the next two weeks, Lorsung said.

"One of the lessons we learned regarding this type of legislation was that we needed a better show of grass-roots support," she said. "We needed more than just the public-sector folks tooling down and saying, 'We support this.' "

Lorsung went to the Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge, River Hill, Town Center and Wilde Lake village boards to ask for their support. In the past three weeks, each village except River Hill voted in favor of the issue -- most of them unanimously.

Lorsung visited River Hill on Feb. 3, but the board has not yet discussed the issue, said Sunny McGuinn, village manager.

The bill was first proposed in 1995, but died amid accusing cries of "Big Brother." It was introduced again when the General Assembly session convened in January.

The new bill came on the heels of a state-funded study on the problem released by Howard County police and government officials in November.

During the evening rush hour at the intersection of Little Patuxent Parkway and Columbia Road in Columbia, officials found that, on average, a motorist runs a red light every seven minutes.

If approved, cameras would videotape the back of the vehicle, not the driver's face. The offense would be treated like a parking ticket: A fine of $100 would be imposed, but points would not be assessed on a driver's license.

No village boards in Columbia have voted to oppose the bill.

Representatives from three of the four villages in east Columbia said their boards see the issue as a state concern and have not discussed it. The Long Reach village board discussed the bill and voted to support it last year.

County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, who represents east Columbia, said he has been lobbying state and county officials to support the legislation.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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