Ocean City Today

Legislation would levy heavy penalties during car events

SB 872 looks to establish ‘Special Event Zones,’ with fines and potential jail time
By Greg Ellison | Feb 15, 2018
The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill to give officials increased enforcement tools for car and bike show participants committing traffic infractions.

(Feb. 16, 2018) Creating “Special Event Zones,” with increased fine structures and tougher jail sentences to rein in unruly drivers during annual automotive gatherings in Ocean City is the aim of legislation introduced last week by Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38).

“This issue is of grave concern to citizens, the mayor, city council and law-abiding participants in these motorized events,” Mathias said.

Senate Bill 872 would authorize the State Highway Administration to designate roadways under its purview as special event zones to allow for reduced speed limits and increased penalties.

The bill would prohibit reckless driving, racing, burning rubber and making too much noise in designated areas where pedestrians gather near highways.

First-time violators could be fined up to $1,000 and face up to one year in jail, with a potential two years of incarceration for subsequent offenses.

Drivers engaging in prohibited behaviors that cause bodily harm to pedestrians would face up to three years in jail and fines up to $5,000. If a pedestrian is killed, drivers could be sentenced to prison for up to 10 years and fined up to $5,000.

In response to associated mayhem, including injuries and even death, during Endless Summer Cruisin’ in October and the unsanctioned H2O International event, Ocean City formed the 27-member Motor Events Task Force, which held an inaugural meeting in December.

“The task force has met and the mayor has asked for this legislation to be introduced,” Mathias said.

SB872 was introduced as an emergency bill for first reading last Monday and has a Senate hearing scheduled for Feb. 27.

Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) is co-sponsoring corresponding legislation, HB1496, which had a first reading last Friday and is scheduled for a hearing on March 2.

“Working with Ocean City Police Chief Buzzuro, I am encouraged that the Maryland Police Chiefs and Sheriffs’ Association is supporting our special events enforcement legislation,” she said.

“This legislation will give more tools to law enforcement, like increasing the penalties for excessive speeding and expanding the criminal violation of reckless endangerment, so these violators can actually be taken off the roads and these offending vehicles can be temporarily impounded.”

The Senate and House measures define “special events,” as automotive, entertainment, amusement, recreation, sporting or community events, which attract large numbers of spectators in close proximity to roadways.

In addition to vehicle shows, the bill could also apply to: boat shows, festivals, fairs, carnivals, parades, circuses, concerts, block parties or fireworks displays.

Deeming it a top priority for this legislative session, Mathias said he is working with Ocean City Solicitor Guy Ayres, as well as the mayor and council to formulate a bill with one basic objective.

“To keep pedestrians and motorists in Ocean City safe and out of harms way,” he said. “While also holding any perpetrators accountable.”

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