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Speed camera gives ticket to stationary car

A speed camera in Baltimore declares that a Mazda is doing 38 mph in a 25 mph zone. It wasn't. It was standing still at a red light.

This is not the speed camera in question. But it is a speed camera.
CC David Bleasdale/Flickr

Something's wonky about technology in Baltimore.

Earlier this week, I shivered at the idea that the city had been at the forefront of putting audio surveillance in its buses.

Now I hear that its speed cameras appear to have been buying street drugs from extremely disreputable sorts.

You see, a Baltimore camera issued a ticket to Daniel Doty. It claimed that he and his Mazda wagon were going 38 mph in a 25 mph zone.

I hadn't been aware that Mazda wagons could go that fast. Doty, on the other hand, hadn't been aware that you can go 38 mph while standing completely still.

As the upstanding Baltimore Sun has it, the photograph that Doty received with his $40 citation showed that his Mazda wasn't moving. At all.

It showed its brake lights offering an illuminating detail to the scene. Doty told the Sun that it was "shockingly obvious" his Mazda wasn't moving.

For its part, the city was incapable of explaining how it might possibly be that such an injustice could occur.

It seems that citations go through not one, but two reviews -- just in case, you know.

Some might experience involuntary spasms on hearing that one of those reviews involves an actual police officer who must swear that this car was going at least 12 mph over the limit.

Oh, and he or she must swear it "based on inspection of the recorded images."

Speed cameras have often been criticized for their ineffectiveness -- or merely for their utterly venal purposes.

But the city of Baltimore has withheld comment -- beyond describing any error as "unacceptable" -- until a task force meeting on Friday.

I imagine that Doty may have a good chance of contesting the ticket. Conveniently, he happens to be a lawyer.