Thousands of MTA buses caught running red lights, speeding

BALTIMORE - Like tax bills and credit card statements, red light and speed camera tickets are just one of those terrible things that eventually show up in your mailbox. 

An ABC2 News investigation found thousands of those unpleasant surprises going to one address: the Maryland Transit Administration.

They blow through intersections, barely missing other drivers.  They drive around cars to make illegal turns and even race through red, two at a time. 

We've seen the worst of the worst when it comes to dangerous driving behavior because it's been caught by red light and speed cameras placed throughout the state.

As part of an ABC2 News investigation we looked at tickets racked up by drivers for the Maryland Transit Administration dating back to the start of 2010. 

There are thousands of them, featuring speeders, aggressive drivers and red light racers who've been caught on film and slapped with citations.

Those citations show things like buses hauling through red lights, with police officers watching.  We also spotted mobility drivers veering around cars, trying to beat the light and drivers who made a stop and then pulled out into traffic against the light.  MTA rider Tim Johnson was stunned when we showed him the violations, "I get speechless when I see things like that on the street."

We also looked at tickets given to MTA drivers who went over the limit.  Speed cameras caught a mobility driver going 82 in a work zone with a 55 mile per hour limit. 



We also saw a ticket given to a driver going more than 20 miles over in a school zone.  And within the hundreds of tickets, we discovered even the Administrator of the MTA, Ralign Wells, has been busted.
 

Terry Owens, the Chief Public Information Officer with the MTA, says moving violations won't be tolerated, no matter who gets the ticket. 

He explains, "Safety is the highest priority for this agency, because as you said, we're dealing with peoples' lives here."

Owens says MTA driver or MTA-contracted driver that's hit with a speed or red light camera ticket has to pony up and pay the fine themselves.  It's the price for breaking the law, he says, "We demand our operators obey the laws and where they violate the law, we hold those folks accountable."

Our investigation discovered those operators have paid big bucks.  We found MTA drivers have racked up at least 2,851 tickets and $114,000 in fines since the start of 2010. 

Owens is quick to dismiss the volume of tickets, saying, "When you look at the number of vehicles on the road and how long they're out there and the number of miles they log, when you give it some context, those numbers don't appear quite as daunting."

According to the MTA, they put about 900 vehicles on the road during peak hours, with their buses logging more than 20-million miles a year. 

The agency says the majority of those miles are traveled safely, without a problem or a ticket.  When tickets are issued to the MTA, they're handed down to divisional managers who have to figure out which driver was behind the wheel when the citation was issued. 

Drivers then have to provide the manager proof the citation was paid.  If they don't, Owens says they face suspension, although he wasn't sure if any drivers had received that consequence for failure to pay.

But keep in mind, when that flash goes off, it's more than just a picture. 

Riders say it's a snapshot of the kind of dangerous driving they feel puts them at risk, whether you're on the road or riding the bus. 

And not every mistake made behind the wheel gets its own flash of fame.  One rider reminded us, "There are a lot more that haven't been caught."

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