Measure Piloting Automated Speed Enforcement in Work Zones Has Strong Local Support, Some Detractors

| November 8, 2019

VENANGO 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.

“As the wife of a PennDot worker I am all for this. There is way to many people that speed through work zones and puts the workers in danger. Those workers have families at home and I sure don’t ever want to have to explain to our children that their dad was killed doing his job by someone that couldn’t take the time to slow down!” Shalee Wensel said.

Karen Evans said that she is all for it for construction zones.

“There are to many people out their that don’t pay attention or cannot read signs,” Evans noted.

Kelly Sue Klinger said that she thinks it is a great idea and added “I’ve seen people fly through the work zones. People need to slow down the men and women working on the roads are doing their job’s and have families waiting at home just like those rushing home or to work people need to pay attention and slow the hell down in work zones. Don’t want a ticket don’t speed problem solved and maybe an accident avoided.”

Some residents even support them despite reservations about automated enforcement.

“In general I oppose speed cameras, but I’m in favor of them in a construction zone. Some people have no respect for the safety of the workers and don’t slow down at all,” Jim Marshall stated.

However, some residents still have some concerns.

“My only concern is if the radar will be kept properly calibrated. This would be hard to fight in court if issued a speeding ticket when you were not speeding,” Beth Agneaux noted.

“It’s less about safety and more about generating revenue,” Christopher Dean said.

Others have issues with it on another level.

“No, it’s about the principle and what doors this could open up. Before you know it they’ll be radar guns at every speed limit sign and no one will ever have a ticket because everyone drives the speed limit. I get that some think this will help, but a radar gun won’t keep people off their dang phones it’ll just give them a nice ticket if their speeding. We taxpayers pay cops to keep the community safe and enforce laws. A cop in or before a work zone will have everyone hitting the brakes and throwing their phone on the passenger seat. Let the actual humans enforce the speed limit not a piece of technology,” Karrie Langworthy stated.

Jeremy Stec believes that speeding ticket cameras are never a good thing.

Stec noted that “if we allow them in construction zones, they will soon be placed all over! I understand wanting to make work zones safer, and nothing like a State Trooper will make people slow down and/or pay attention. Maybe they should place decoy cars near work zones? After all, the intent is to slow people down, not just collect money for speeding, right? I suggest reading up on speed and red light cameras before blindly accepting use of them.”

Others find the system problematic on a legal level.

“It doesn’t allow a person to face their accuser,” Bob Boocks noted.

“Well considering it goes against the constitution, no one should support it,” Kieran Irwin 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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