H2Oi burn out

Tuner-car enthusiasts cheer on side street hi jinks last September. Despite the passage of legislation in 2018 to establish special event zones during annual automobile-themed gatherings in Ocean City, which substantially increased speeding fines, resort officials headed to Annapolis this week to testify in support of Senate Bill 682 that would also increase penalties for negligent driving, racing, skidding, spinning wheels and noise violations.

Police, city officials deliver resort’s case for widening parameters of existing law

(March 8, 2019) Bolstering special event zone legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly last year to address unruly behavior during annual car events in Ocean City is the aim of Senate Bill 682, which had a Judicial Proceedings committee hearing Tuesday in Annapolis.

Testifying is support of SB 682 was primary sponsor Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (D-38), who was joined by Mayor Rick Meehan, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro and OCPD Lt. Scott Harner at the committee hearing this week.

Carozza said SB 682 is a priority local emergency bill focused on enhancing a 2018 public safety initiative for a trio of yearly auto-themed events. Del. Wayne Hartman (D-38C) is primary sponsor of cross-filed HB 789.

“We created a special event zone, which is very similar to construction work zones or school zones,” she said. “This only affects three events for 12 days out of the whole year.”

In February 2018, then-Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) introduced SB 872, along with cross-filed HB 1406 sponsored by then Del. Carozza (D-38C), which authorized the State Highway Administration to designate roadways under its purview as special event zones to allow for reduced speed limits and increased penalties.

In 2018, the Eastern Shore legislators sought to include reckless driving, racing, burning rubber and making too much noise in areas designated special event zones, but the bill’s final language omitted those violations and primarily focused on speeding offenses.

“What did not pass last year … [were] penalties for other violations in the special event zones,” she said.

To that end, SB 682 and HB 789 would add traffic offenses, including negligent driving, racing, skidding, spinning wheels and noise violations.

“Of the 2,222 total citations in 2018 for the three events in those 12 days nearly 23 percent were tickets for … violations that the law does not cover,” she said.

Meehan said the revised legislation is intended to discourage the aforementioned egregious behaviors by increasing maximum penalties to $1,000.

“Currently, fines for some of these activities are $40-$70 and some of these drivers look at that ticket as a badge of courage,” he said.

Meehan said the resort only backs some of the automobile gatherings in question.

“Two have been in existence for 25 years … Endless Summer Cruisin’ and Cruisin’ Ocean City,” he said. “The third event is social media generated … where about 10,000 cars come to town.”

Even though the H2O International relocated last year to Atlantic City from its former headquarters at Fort Whaley Campground on Route 50, Ocean City was still invaded by an armada of foreign “tuner” cars at the end of last September.

“It is not supported by the town in any way and is not sanctioned, but they show up,” he said. “They have little regard for our police officers or our laws.”

Carozza said numerous resort residents have expressed worries, specifically those in the North Ocean City neighborhood of Caine Woods where numerous wide side streets tend to attract unsafe driving behaviors.

“This is where some of the H2Oi crowd tends to assemble,” she said. “It is a serious threat to our neighborhoods.”

Meehan said the resort wants to preserve its decades-long working relationship with TEAM Productions, which organizes the Cruisin’ events, while curtailing reckless activities largely committed by non-registered vehicles.

“We’re trying to protect the events themselves that have been good to Ocean City and obey our laws,” he said.

Cross-filed HB 789 is scheduled for a House Environment and Transportation Committee hearing today at 1 p.m.

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