Council Votes To Send Governor Letter Seeking State’s Help With Vehicle Event

OCEAN CITY – Although it’s been a few weeks since thousands of motorists invaded the resort, the wounds are still fresh and more action is being sought to prevent the onslaught from happening in the future.

Acting on a recommendation from the police commission, the Mayor and Council on Monday voted unanimously to send a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan requesting more Maryland State Police troopers next year if and when the unsanctioned H2Oi event followers return. In addition, the town’s elected officials on Monday unanimously agreed to return to Annapolis during the next session to attempt to add more teeth to the special event zone legislation passed last year.

For the record, the official H2Oi car show was held in Atlantic City in the last weekend in September, but, as expected, a huge contingent of car enthusiasts bent on wreaking havoc in Ocean City arrived anyway. Throughout the weekend, Ocean City witnessed blatant motor vehicle violations and general recklessness on local roadways.

During a review of the H2Oi event last week, the police commission voted to forward a favorable recommendation to the full council to send a letter to the governor seeking more state resources during the same weekend next year.

“We’re looking for a letter to the governor recommending additional resources during this weekend,” he said. “We also want to put some of these other violations back into the legislation. We’ve taken the first step and now we need all of the tools available for enforcement.”

With the recommendation from the police commission, the council voted unanimously on Monday to send the letter to the governor seeking more state resources during the same weekend next year. The council also agreed to urge state lawmakers to add some of the other elements to the special enforcement zone legislation left out of the bill last year, including reckless driving, for example. Councilman John Gehrig asked just what kinds of actions fell under the reckless driving charge.

“When we talk about adding reckless driving, what does that entail?” he said. “Right now, we’ve seen the burnouts and the speeding and all of those things and we’ve seen the accident uptown with the overturned vehicle. Are all of those things considered reckless?”

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro explained reckless driving is a serious traffic offense that rises above negligent driving, for example.

“When you rise to reckless, there is usually intention,” he said. “That could mean an intention to harm people. In that particular case, he lost control of his vehicle. If we can get reckless added to the legislation, it could become a criminal citation. A conviction on that would travel with the driver wherever he or she lives.”

Buzzuro stressed adding reckless driving to the special event zone legislation would add more teeth to the enforcement efforts.

“The difference between reckless and negligent driving is the intent,” he said. “It’s just about the worse traffic violation there is because it implies there was intent to harm people or property.”

Meanwhile, during the public comment period on Monday, local resident Martin Brannigan praised the OCPD and its allied partners for their efforts during the unsanctioned event weekend, but could not entirely stem the tide.

“They did the best they could and I appreciate it and so does everybody else,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was kind of like trying to keep the tide off the beach with a broom. It’s just not possible.”

Brannigan related a personal anecdote to illustrate just how the unsanctioned H2Oi weekend is perceived locally and beyond.

“I had a relative in Baltimore call me and tell me to come up there because it was probably safer,” he said. “When a relative in Baltimore tells you to come up there, it’s a pretty good sign the situation is getting out of control.”

Brannigan asked for an explanation of how the tickets, citations and other charges are handled when the defendants are from out-of-state, pointing out there were license plates during the weekend from Maine to South Carolina and as far west as Michigan. Buzzuro explained there is a mechanism for collecting fines associated with citations, but the system is not without its flaws.

“Reciprocity is a pretty antiquated system that is currently in place,” he said. “When the citations leave the police department, they are turned over to the Motor Vehicle Administration. From there, the MVA reaches out to the respective state where the motorist is licensed. There is a coordinated effort and an agreement that the fine will be paid.”

However, points and license suspensions, for example, are not easily enforced.

“If you are from out-of-state, you are still responsible for paying the fine,” he said. “However, the points placed against you, if you are not from Maryland in this case, do not exist.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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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.