By John Shumway

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They are fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters – all just trying to earn a paycheck, while working next to traffic whizzing by oblivious to their safety.

Two of them have died this year in Pennsylvania.

“Folks have entered the work zone and literally killed our department employees,” PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni said. “There are near misses everyday.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Almost half of all work zone accidents are related to speeding and the state has had enough and is taking a major step to slow drivers down. Conventional speed enforcement is not practical in work zones because they are normally confined spaces.

Moon-Sirianni says the Parkway North has been a poster child for work zone speeding over the past two years.

“There were millions of incidents where they were going over 70 miles per hour and we had dozens of them going over 100 miles per hour,” she said.

That work zone speed limit is 45 miles per hour.

Now comes Senate Bill 172.

“We’re going to save lives,” Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “We will install cameras equipped with LIDAR or radar to take photos of any license plates of vehicles exceeding the work zone speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more when workers are present.”

Pennsylvania need only look south to Maryland to see an example of Work Zone Speed Camera Enforcement. Maryland launched its program in 2010 and has seen a dramatic reduction in drivers speeds in active work zones. Maryland’s law enforces work zone speeds around the clock, but Pennsylvania will only enforce the work zone speed limit when crews are working in the work zone.

On a recently sunny day on I-68 in Cumberland, Md., KDKA-TV’s John Shumway watched as a work zone speed camera took pictures of drivers speeding through a zone. One hundred citations were recorded that day despite 10 warning signs leading up to the camera mounted to the front of an SUV.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Each of those 100 drivers will be getting a ticket in the mail in the next couple of weeks with a $40 fine. But 100 in a day is small potatoes to some of the work zone cameras that have been operating in and around Baltimore’s work zones. One camera in particular on I-95 Northeast of Baltimore sent out 465,960 citations in a three-year period. That is one camera. Many others in Maryland have sent out well over 100,000, some close to 200,000 citations.

“It’s just another way for them to get your tax dollars. Your hard earned money,” Steve Stanton, of Hampstead, Md., said.

But generating revenue is not the point of the program; it’s saving lives says Secretary Richards.

The National Motorists Association in a statement to KDKA says it opposes work zone speed cameras because it claims:

  • The enforcement emphasizes ticket volume.
  • The cameras are inaccurate.
  • There’s no witness to the violation.
  • They do not improve safety.

Maryland disputes those claims and says the program works. Speeding, crashes and injuries are down. When the cameras first hit the roads in Maryland, 7 out of every 100 cars were being cited. That is now down to 1 in 100. Ironically, the better the program works, the fewer citations are issued and the less money the citations bring in.

Moon-Sirianni says that’s further proof this is not about raising revenue.

“The whole goal is to protect our workers, the PennDOT workers and the contract workers,” she said.

While on I-68 in Maryland, drivers could be seen slowing down and an electronic speed sign showed them at or below the speed limit.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

So when the cameras come to Pennsylvania next year, they will only be active and citing drivers when the work zone is active. But the camera does not discriminate. If you are doing 11 miles per hour over the work zone limit, you will be cited.

“The first citation is a warning, the second a $75 fine and the third and subsequent violations are a $150 dollar fine,” Richards said.

There will be no points on your driver’s license or any insurance impact. Richards says the only goal is “changing the behaviors of every person who drives on our highways.”

“We want drivers to slow down to a safe speed limit and stop putting road workers in jeopardy,” Richards said.

Look for the cameras to start appearing in work zones sometime next year.