Special Event Zone rules will apply to all motorists
*** Updated Sept. 21, 1:11 p.m. — this article refers to a public planning and discussion Facebook page for the pop-up rally. Another larger page also exists, but is set on private. It currently has more than 66,000 members.
(Sept. 18, 2020) Starting next Tuesday, Ocean City will be under Special Event Zone restrictions, meaning speed limits will be reduced, punishments for offenses will be increased and traffic enforcement will be heavy handed, all in an attempt to quell participants of this year’s expected pop-up car rally.
Top speeds throughout the resort next week from Tuesday to Sunday, will be 30 mph, with anything above that punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly approved an exhibition driving bill that greatly increased law enforcement’s power over motor vehicles in certain circumstances.
Exhibition driving is defined as “the transportation of a passenger on (or in) an area of a motor vehicle that is not designed (or intended) for passenger transport such as the hood or roof.”
Also included in the definition are excessive, abrupt acceleration or deceleration of a vehicle; skidding, squealing, burning or smoking of the tires; the swerving or swaying of the vehicle from side to side while skidding; excessive engine noises; grinding of the gears or the backfiring of the engine of the motor vehicle or any of the wheels of the vehicle losing contact with the ground.
Violators could be fined up to $500, while the penalty for negligent driving, racing and racing participation as a timekeeper is up to $1,000.
Violators of these acts can also be jailed for up to 60 days — a first for local police.
The Ocean City Council voted last week to adopt an emergency ordinance that will require vehicles to be towed off of an impound lot if they are deemed unsafe or not street legal.
To hurt the pockets of participants even further, city officials voted to double the resort’s towing fine from $325 to $600.
Resort law enforcement will be working with 30 towing companies and has earmarked a lot large enough to accommodate an abundance of vehicles.
Traffic will be a nightmare next week, because in addition to the reduced speeds, police plan to rearrange traffic patterns, shut down streets and add speed bumps to further deter pop-up rally participants.
Allied law enforcement agencies will assist Ocean City police in record shattering numbers.
“In my 13 years, this is probably, without question, the largest deployment of troopers to the town for this event,” Maryland State Police Lt. Early W. Starner said during an Ocean City Motor Task Force meeting.
Another change this year will be police’s authority to enforce trespass violations.
The Trespass Enforcement Authorization Program, or T.E.A.P., allows police to enforce the aforementioned violations after business hours without contacting a property owner or manager.
Before this month, only 30 property owners or managers were participating in the program. Since the beginning of September, about 150 businesses have signed up.
Furthermore, police have connected with security personnel to create a web of communication throughout the resort.
Nevertheless, participants seem unperturbed by these efforts.
A Facebook page dedicated to the pop-up rally had 10,041 members as of Tuesday, with 283 new members within the last week.
Whether all 10,000 will show up next week is to be determined, but locals may expect to see some car enthusiasts this Saturday, as a “prequel” event allegedly is to take place with participants, 340 as of Tuesday, meeting at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Salisbury.
Posts indicate participants will come mainly from the northeast, but some are coming from as far west as Michigan.
Participants expressed their enthusiasm for the pop-up rally, with some marketing merchandise, such as facemasks and T-shirts, while others are filming the event for an “after movie.”
Next week will prove to be another hectic period for Ocean City, and police Chief Ross Buzzuro has one message to residents and guests.
“If you … don’t have business in town, you don’t need to be in town,” Buzzuro said on Sept. 4.