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WTOP Answer Desk: Speed box vs. speed cams

Thursday - 10/11/2012, 5:36am  ET

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Frederick police officer Rebecca Carrado sets up a speed box. (WTOP/David Burd)

David Burd, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - We've all seen those metal boxes on the side of the road. As you approach, their lights flash and they digitally capture how fast you're driving.

Some may mistake these boxes as speed cameras, but they're not: They're speed boxes.

I was driving through Frederick, Md., when I spotted Frederick police officer Rebecca Carrado setting one of these boxes up across from a middle school.

I had to pull over and ask her: "What the heck is that thing?"

She told me it was a speed box.

Officer Carrado was nice enough to take a moment and tell me just about everything I ever wanted to know about speed boxes and speed cameras.

Anyone can ask to have one set up in their area, i.e. schools and neighborhoods. These speed boxes are data-gathering monsters. They can tell law enforcement how many cars are driving through the area, what time and how fast.

The state of Maryland only allows speed cameras to be set up near schools and state highway projects, not in neighborhoods. But before you start celebrating this news, keep in mind the information taken from the speed boxes can then be used to target areas for speed enforcement. And if you're caught speeding in one of those areas, not only do you get to pay the fine, but you get points against your license.

With speed camera tickets, you don't get points because the camera can't prove you were driving.

Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine told me that they do in fact use the information taken from speed boxes to target where the department deploys officers for speed enforcement.

So, beware of the speed box.

Someone has requested its presence, which means soon someone, or something, will be watching you.

You've been warned.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)