Special Event Zone Bill Introduced In Annapolis

OCEAN CITY — At the request of the town of Ocean City, State Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) this week introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would allow for the creation of special event zones with enhanced penalties that could deter some of the activities associated with the resort’s motorized special events.

Senate Bill 872 would allow for the creation of special event zones. It’s important to note the bill, if passed, would apply to all areas of the state, although it is clearly directed at Ocean City and the problems associated with its motorized special events.

The bill defines a special event “as any automotive, entertainment, amusement, recreation, sporting, marketing or community event at which the public gathers in large numbers and in close proximity to a highway.” A special event zone is defined in the bill as “an area on or alongside a highway that is marked by appropriate warning signs or other traffic control devices.”

According to the language in the bill, the State Highway Administration (SHA) on its own initiative or at the request of a local authority, designated an area on a state highway as a special event zone. In addition, the local authority, in this case the town of Ocean City, can designate any area on a highway under its jurisdiction as a special event zone.

The bill would allow speed limit reductions in areas designated as special event zones. Particularly, the bill’s language states the local authority may “reduce established speed limits in the special event zone after a determination that the change is necessary to ensure public safety.” A person convicted of violating the speed limit posted in the special event zone is subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000.

The bill also defines a wide variety of violations in the designated special event zones that could be subject to enhanced penalties. For example, the bill defines violations as reckless driving, aggressive driving, races or speed contests, skidding, spinning of wheels and excessive noise.

The bill also defines the penalty for a first violation would be a maximum of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The penalty for a second or subsequent offense would be two years and/or a $1,000 fine.

According to the bill, an individual convicted of a violation that results in the injury of another person would be subject to a prison term not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both. A person convicted of one of the described violations that results in the death of another person would be subject to a prison term not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.

The bill submitted this week has been proposed as emergency legislation that would take effect from the date enacted. Passing the bill as emergency legislation requires a three-fifths vote in both the Senate and House.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.