Ocean City just imposed a Special Event Zone, lowered speed limits, and increased traffic fines through the end of the weekend.
Ocean City has been home to many rowdy motorcycle and car rallies over the years. Last year, a number of H2Oi attendees were arrested and fined by police. One was even arrested for slapping a police horse.
In response, township officials lobbied the Maryland Legislature to grant Ocean City the power to designate "Special Event Zones" to deal with these sorts of rallies. The legislature agreed and Governor Larry Hogan signed a bill into law allowing for traffic fines to be hiked anytime 1,000 people or more congregate in town for a gathering. Given the fact that tens of thousands of people flock to Ocean City on any given weekend during the summer months, many criticized that the new power was too broad.
Under the power, Ocean City Police are allowed to temporarily lower speed limits and hike fines for any motorist caught violating municipal traffic laws.
Earlier this year saw the first instance of this Special Event Zone being used in town. During Cruisin' Ocean City back in May, one driver was fined $1,600 for going 64 MPH in a zone that was temporarily lowered to a 30 MPH speed limit.
What makes this weekend so unique is that there isn't a planned car rally in Ocean City this weekend. The H2Oi rally was moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey -- 100 miles away from Ocean City -- after this new Special Event Zone law was passed in the spring. Organizers did not want to put their attendees at risk of these excessive fines, so they canceled the Ocean City event.
However, the township is still lowering the speed limits and hiking traffic fines this weekend just in case rally attendees show up to Ocean City anyway to hold an unofficial gathering. Since there is no official rally planned, there is no evidence that 1,000 people plan to attend the gathering. This has led many locals to question whether this weekend's Special Event Zone is even legal.
Since the H2Oi rally is running through September 30 in Atlantic City, all of Ocean City is being placed under a Special Event Zone.
Expect lower speed limits and increased traffic enforcement through the weekend. Even if you are used to a road or highway having a certain speed limit, pay attention to temporary speed limit signs this weekend, and make sure to strictly follow all traffic laws.