Tag Archives: traffic laws

Baltimore intends to remain Squeegee City

In Baltimore, aggressive squeegee kids have been a presence in downtown traffic for years. Now, as, Capital News Service reports, the city unveils a plan to 1) ask them to stay out of certain densely driven corridors, 2) pay some of them to change the way they spend their time, and 3) issue fines to drivers who tip them. Newly elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates took part in the team that drew up the plan but has also offered a more straightforward analysis of the situation: what the kids do is already an unlawful interference with traffic.

Gov. Larry Hogan has long criticized the city’s non-enforcement policies, saying in July, “It certainly has had a major impact on people being afraid to come to the city because they’ve been harassed for years and years.” But much of the city’s active political class disagrees with him, dismissing as anecdotal or subjective the accounts of drivers, female and elderly especially, who say they have felt intimidated or coerced to give money during the exchanges.

Sometimes it appears being “made to feel unsafe” isn’t such a big deal after all.

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In miniature, August 21

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In miniature, January 21

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Annual costs of owning a car

Maryland is twelfth highest in the BankRate survey (via Business Insider), substantially higher than neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia (Delaware and West Virginia had costs comparable to ours). While Maryland has a relatively high gas tax, our spending on gasoline itself is only in the middle of the pack (perhaps because Marylanders are more likely to buy gas-thrifty vehicles and drive shorter distances than residents of many other states). Unfortunately, our repair and insurance costs are among the nation’s highest; both are influenced by regulation as well as other factors.

We reported in May on a National Motorists Association survey that found Maryland one of the worst states in the country in looking after motorists’ interests, in part because of the high reliance by law enforcement on methods geared to raise revenue through traffic-law enforcement.

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Treating Maryland motorists badly

The National Motorists Association is out with annual state rankings on which states look after motorists’ interests fairly in its view. Maryland comes in among the worst in the country: only four states (NY, DE, NJ, VT) and D.C. are worse.

What accounts for the poor showing? Maryland actually does not do too badly on the dimensions of legal protections for motorists (mostly procedural rights for the accused) and regulatory intensity (the degree to which stiff penalties and prohibitions are reserved for the most dangerous driver behavior).

Unfortunately, we have very poor ratings in the survey’s other three categories. Our cost of driving, as influenced by government policy, is very high — that would include things like the gas tax, tolls, registration and insurance. Only New Jersey, Vermont, and D.C. are worse in the extent to which fees and taxes paid by motorists are diverted to non-road uses, including but not limited to transit. ToPackardWheel Maryland, your car is a cash cow, and someone else is probably getting the milk.

Worst of all? The category known as enforcement tactics. According to NMA, this is a measure of “the degree to which police use command and control tactics intended more to generate revenue than to enhance public safety. What is the extent of speed traps, roadblocks, red-light cameras, speed cameras, and federally funded ticket blitzes? Is the annual volume of traffic tickets reasonable? Are work-zone speed limits and penalties dependent on workers being present?” As NMA sees it, no state — only the District of Columbia — is worse off on this dimension than we are.

No doubt Maryland’s poor showing has some connection with our being in the crowded Northeast, since of the ten worst scorers, all but Illinois (7th worst) and Florida (8th) are in the country’s upper right.  But note that Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, all relatively crowded northeastern states, rank solidly in the middle of the pack, while Maine scores better than average.  Maybe Maryland’s government will never leave drivers as free as those in North Dakota or Wyoming, but how about at least reducing the harassment to, say, Massachusetts levels?


Photo Credit: Pixabay.

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