Measure Piloting Automated Speed Enforcement in Work Zones Has Strong Local Support, Some Detractors
CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) will soon be piloting a program to equip some work zones with speed cameras.
Senate Bill 172, the Automated Speed Enforcement in Work Zones legislation, which aims to deter speeding in work zones and ultimately improve motorist and roadway worker safety was signed into law in mid-October. It has three key provisions, including one of which allows PennDOT and the PTC to perform a five-year pilot program in which some construction and maintenance work zones will have cameras equipped with LIDAR or radar to take photos of license plates of any vehicle exceeding the work zone speed limit by 11 mph or more when workers are present.
If a violation is committed, a Pennsylvania State Police representative will review it and then a notice of violation will be issued to the registered vehicle owner. The first violation is a warning, the second violation results in a $75 fine and the third and subsequent violation means a $150 fine.
Violations will not be subject to driving points or merit rating for insurance purposes. The law allows PennDOT and the PTC to choose which contractor or department-force work zones on the federal aid highway system to use in the pilot. Special advanced signage advising motorists of the camera enforcement have to be erected at the affected work zones.
Created to improve safety in work zones, this measure has strong support in our local community.
“This is an excellent idea,” Barbara Hillard Goughler said. “My husband is a retired Penn Dot equipment operator. I can’t begin to count the number of times he came home with a story of he or a crew member nearly being hit while working on the roads.”
Sal Mazzocchi agreed that it is a great idea.
“Someone you know has a loved one working working on a highway, either as a PennDOT employee or a highway contractor, and at the end of the day, they all want to return safely home to their families. PennDOT should make every effort to help assure their safety, and radar-equipped cameras to enforce speed limits in construction zones will certainly be a safety benefit,” Sal explained.
Joseph Droddy said that having done traffic control for several years, he would like to see something that would get our highway workers a little more safety and respect.
“On moving work zones, some motorists totally ignore the three work area signs and travel at excessive speed , as always, as though there was no work zone. Perhaps these speed cameras would get some people’s attention,” Droddy noted.
Kaley Simpson and Dan Hartle echoed the sentiments of those in favor of the speed cameras.
“Maybe just the idea will deter people from driving fast because clearly the signs aren’t doing enough,” Simpson said.
“I feel this is a good idea to keep the workers safe from speeders. It is a dangerous job, and people do not pay attention while traveling through a work zone,” noted Hartle.
However, some residents have some concerns.
“I feel that it will result in many tickets being issued for the wrong drivers. I have been going through areas where one of the radar speed boards have been in use and has registered and displayed a speed greater than I was traveling because it was reading another vehicles speed, but if there had been a camera, I think it would have tagged my vehicle. Also without tags in the front of the vehicle, how will it take pictures of a license plate until after the vehicle passes the camera?” Tommy Plyter asked.
Sam Myers saw this as a way for the government to get more tax money.
“Nothing like a little more government tax! That will probly gross them a nice million dollars (maybe more) within no time. The Government cares nothing about the workers lives. They honestly couldn’t care less. Just another way to collect some quick and easy revenue. They won’t even pay someone’s time to do it manually now,” Myers said.
Others find the system problematic on a legal level.
“I have a constitutional right to face my accuser. This is about generating revenue not safety,” Stan Smith stated.
“It’s entrapment. Should be illegal,” Gus Wiegand added.
While there have been a number of challenges to automated enforcement tickets issued, including several that made it all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, few challenges to automated enforcement legislation have been successful.
PennDOT, the PA Turnpike, and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are currently working to develop a Request for Proposals for a vendor to administer the new system in Pennsylvania and provide the hardware. The selected vendor will be compensated per a flat fee and not per violation.
Fines paid for these violations, minus the costs to operate and maintain the program will be deposited into the Motor License Fund. Of those fines, in the first three years 45 percent of the fines will be transferred to the PSP for recruiting, training, and equipping cadets as well as increased state trooper presence in work zones. Fifteen percent will be invested in work zone safety, traffic safety, and educating the public on work zone safety. After the third year, PennDOT or the PTC will use fine revenues to develop a Work Zone and Highway Safety Program for improvements and countermeasures to improve work zone safety.
An additional provision of the law establishes a five-year pilot program within the City of Philadelphia for speeding enforcement cameras. As with the work zone pilot, special signage advising motorists of the camera enforcement have to be erected denoting the automated speed enforcement zone.
The third provision in the law allows the use of LIDAR speed-measuring devices for the automated speed enforcement programs and PSP.
The law establishing the PennDOT and PTC pilot program takes effect in 120 days and violations can be issued 60 days after publication in the PA Bulletin. The law provisions for the City of Philadelphia pilot program take effect in 60 days. PennDOT must establish a temporary regulation for the calibration and testing of LIDAR speed-measuring devices before it can be used for automated enforcement or by PSP.
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