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State Legislature passes nuisance driving laws

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Posted on: April 11, 2024

By SAM GAUNTT

The Maryland General Assembly in April passed two bills to increase penalties for street racing and allow Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to install noise-sensing traffic cameras that ticket excessively loud cars. 

The College Park City Council submitted letters of support for the bills, which have both passed in the House of Delegates and Senate.

During a Feb. 15 hearing in Annapolis on the street racing and exhibition driving bill, College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir said city residents have seen an increase in racing and stunt driving in the city. 

“It is not unusual for groups of motorcycle and ATV drivers to briefly take over sections of Baltimore Avenue on Route 1,” Kabir said. “These actions harm our communities, and these actions waste … resources, especially the police resources.”

Examples of exhibition driving include doing donuts, deliberately skidding (burning rubber), grinding the car’s gears and sudden acceleration, according to the legislation.

If Gov. Wes Moore signs the legislation, the new law will increase fines and raise the number of points added to the licenses of drivers found participating in these activities. Drivers could receive up to 12 points on their licenses – enough to get them revoked in the state. 

According to the legislation, a driver would get eight points if no one is injured while racing or stunt driving and 12 points if someone is injured. 

The law would apply to instances of racing or exhibition driving on both public roadways and in parking lots. 

Del. Mary Lehman (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel), the sponsor of the House bill, said the issue of racing and stunt driving “has spun out of control in our state.”

“The fact is, exhibition driving will continue to disrupt our communities, endanger law enforcement and risk serious bodily harm, or worse, to participants and passersby,” Lehman said during the hearing. 

The city council also supported legislation, sponsored by Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery), that will permit Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to install noise abatement technology — specialized speed cameras with microphones designed to identify and ticket cars that exceed the legal noise limit for motor vehicles. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have been illegally modifying their cars to be noisier, Palakovich Carr said. Drivers sometimes remove mufflers or modify their engines or exhaust systems to up the noise level, she said. 

“It’s just really, really disruptive for folks,” she said. 

Other states such as New York and California have passed similar laws, Palakovich Carr noted. 

The bill addressing noise abatement, which also passed in April, would allow the county to issue a $70 citation once per day to violators. 

The bill allows the two counties to install a maximum of three noise-monitoring devices each. Cities within Prince George’s and Montgomery counties would have to grant their respective county permission to install a noise camera in their city limits, she said.  

Drivers who receive a ticket for the noise will be able to contest it in court if they believe it to be unjustified. 

College Park resident Bryan Haddad, who previously ran for mayor on a platform primarily based on cracking down on illegally modified cars, said he is in favor of noise abatement technology. 

The technology is “wild,” Haddad, the co-owner of The Bamboo Eater smoke shop in North College Park, said. “They’re like speeding cameras, but they measure decibels, and they can be tied to an actual camera and they can pinpoint the location of the sound, and they can pick up the license plate in the process.”

Haddad said many vehicles that are illegally modified to be noisier or participate in street racing often don’t have license plates, which makes it harder for police to enforce penalties on the drivers. But installing noise cameras still would be a way to help crack down on these kinds of illegally modified vehicles, he said. 

“We need to demand a certain responsibility and culpability from people who are driving,” Haddad said.

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