Heavy foot on the gas pedal?
It’s showing as speed cameras in active construction zones around Pennsylvania are catching violators.
Nearly 30,000 violations have been issued so far to drivers who sped through active work zones, said Jennifer Kuntch, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
In a new initiative started this spring, written warnings or tickets are mailed to drivers traveling 11 mph or more over the speed limit in a work zone.
Drivers have received written warnings for some 90 percent of the violations over the course of about three months, she said. Some were caught at least a second time, and those tickets carry fines.
The tickets cost $75 for a second violation or $150 for a third or subsequent offense. It’s a civil penalty, and no points are added to the driver’s license.
Some have multiple tickets to pay. Three percent of vehicle owners received three or more violations, she said.
In a few cases, speed cameras caught drivers flying more 90 mph through a work zone, Kuntch said. It was at least 30 mph over the speed limit.
PennDOT officials have said the speed cameras aren’t about fines but saving lives. The goal is to encourage drivers to slow down, change their behavior and improve safety for motorists and workers.
“Speeds have started to trend downward, and we are optimistic that the trend will continue,” Kuntch wrote in an email.
Other states with similar programs have noticed that excessive speeding trends downward after about a year of using the cameras, she said.
More speed cameras coming
Currently, the state has eight to 10 speed camera units stationed on highways and roads throughout the commonwealth. They are moved around as needed.
The state will ramp up to 17 units in the next month, Kuntch said.
Seven will be used on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and 10 will be used on roads maintained by PennDOT.
The current locations include:
- Most of the Pennsylvania Turnpike
- Interstate 81 in Cumberland County between the Franklin County border and High Street in Carlisle.
- Interstate 83 in York County between the Mount Rose Avenue and North George Street interchanges.
In the past, the cameras have been used in other spots, such as the I-83 Shrewsbury interchange and along Route 322 in Dauphin County.
Speed cameras can be moved back to those locations, Kuntch said. If so, they will be reflected in the state’s list of current locations. The list is available to the public at workzonecameras.penndot.gov. Warning signs also are posted along the road.
Coronavirus suspended enforcement
The state suspended enforcement with the speed cameras between March 16 and April 20 because of the coronavirus, Kuntch said.
Crews were not working on construction projects during that time as part of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
The cameras only can be used in active work zones when workers are present.
Fighting a speed camera ticket is difficult, critics say
While the National Motorists Association hasn’t received calls from drivers who have received tickets in Pennsylvania, some people are upset about the automated enforcement, communications director Shelia Dunn said.
The cameras do not protect the rights of drivers, such as being able to face their accuser, she said.
A warning or a ticket can arrive in the mail weeks later, and drivers often can’t recall what happened while they were traveling through the work zone on that particular day.
In Pennsylvania, the violation can arrive in the mail up to 90 days after the offense.
“It’s really difficult to fight a speed camera ticket,” Dunn said. “You really can’t prove what you were doing.”
The association argues there are other ways to get drivers to slow down in work zones, such as having police stop speeders and using “your speed” signs.
James Sikorski Jr., a Pennsylvania advocate with the association, added to the list of concerns.
For example, some drivers are using other routes to avoid them. It doesn’t make sense to divert drivers from the safest roads onto two-lane, local roads, he said.
While PennDOT says the owner of the vehicle is responsible for the fine, “an owner cannot be assumed to be the driver,” Sikorski said in an email.
He also said that the speed camera enforcement warning signs should be bigger and placed higher above the road for drivers to see them.
How to pay a ticket
Fines can be paid by mail, phone, or online at this time.
If the ticket isn’t paid, the violation will be turned over to a collection agency.