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

JEFFERSON 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 does have some support in our local community.

“I think it’s agreat idea. People need to slow down. We need to keep those people that are working on our roads safe,” Joy Hartzell said.

“Construction workers don’t sign up for a life threatening job. I believe the fines for speeding in work zones should be more than doubled. I applaud the use of them,” Matt Lasher stated.

“It’s a great idea. Most the states around us do it already,” Michael Reed noted.

However, some residents have some concerns.

“It’s a good idea because people do drive to fast in work zone, but how will they ensure that the person driving the car is the person it is registered to? If it’s in my and my husband’s name, who get the ticket and the points? What if we loan the car to a relative or friend who speeds through the work zone?” Josie Smelko asked.

“Soon we will all be required to have tracking implants so the government knows where we are 24/7. Satellites are already up there doing most of this already. Insurance companies are tricking us to mount devises in our cars for hopes of reduced rates. What is next to control and manipulate the masses? Reminds me of some crazy Sci-Fi movie that, all of a sudden, is not so crazy,” Wayne Kocher said.

“Who’s the ticketing officer then so I can cross examine him in court how do I know it’s not calculating a bag blowing in the wind or dust or a bird?” Dan Nogel asked.

Others find the system problematic on a legal level.

“Against it. No right to face the accuser. Denied right of due process. Due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due process violation, which offends the rule of law,” Eric Burkamp said.

“Look to cities in Texas that have tried and now removed due to litigation that they have lost. It’s not that the person isn’t guilty but that the processors of the tickets weren’t legally sworn officers,” Curtis Barrett noted.

“Under the 6th amendment I have the right to confront my accuser,” Vic Maccallum stated.

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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