IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Pennsylvania DOT: Speed Cameras Improve Work Zone Safety

Two years into a pilot project to use unmanned cameras to catch and ticket unsafe driving behavior, state officials say the program has made a significant difference in active work zones.

(TNS) — More than two years into Pennsylvania's use of unmanned cameras to enforce speeds in active work zones, state officials believe the pilot program is making a difference in keeping workers and travelers safe, reducing crashes, and changing dangerous driving habits.

Though some drivers are still surprised when they receive a letter informing them that they were caught speeding by automated devices, there is a growing understanding of the program, and it's motivating motorists not to drive too fast or distracted through construction areas, officials say.

The Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program began in Pennsylvania on March 9, 2020, after being created by the state legislature.

It is run jointly by PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with the assistance of a contracted administrator. State police review and affirm select violations and provide speed and quality control testing.

Only Maryland and Illinois have similar programs.

During construction season, cameras are usually set up in parked white Jeep Cherokees at 17 active work zones at a time throughout the state.

That typically includes 10 on PennDOT roads and seven on the turnpike. When a vehicle is deemed to be traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the posted construction zone limit, cameras capture images of its front and rear.

It also records other information such as the speed limit, speed, location, date and time.

Active work zones are possible year-round, but are weather dependent so motorists will see more during spring, summer and fall months. And because the units are deployed in eight-hour shifts, they can be used at two different construction zones in the same day.

"It's a tool to change driver behavior so they go the posted speed limit in construction zones," said PennDOT Bureau of Operations Director Dan Farley.

For the driver's first offense a warning is mailed, while the second offense lands them a fine of $75, and the third offense a fine of $150. It's a civil offense, so no points are assessed on their driver's license.

Lt. Adam Reed, who directs the PSP communications office, remembers seeing crashes and near misses in construction zones while he was patrolling highways.

"Speed and aggressive driving are a problem in work zones," he said. "We hope the cameras make folks think more about their speed when they're driving through, and that it will save lives."

There were 1,649 work zone crashes in 2021, according to PennDOT. Those accidents resulted in 16 deaths and 89 suspected serious injuries. All of the deaths were motorists, as there were no workers fatally injured.

In the program's 2022 report, officials said the automated cameras are making a difference.

"The data has shown that AWZSE is an effective tool in improving work zone safety across the Commonwealth, counter to national trends of increasing work zone crashes," it said.

The report stated that in 2021, speeding in enforced work zones was reduced to 20% of all traffic, and excessive speeding (11+ mph over the posted speed limit) was reduced to 3%, both of which were improvements.

There was also a reduction in construction zone crashes, and measured, sustained speed reductions were observed in enforced work zones, the report said.

Fatal crashes in Pennsylvania work zones also continued the be at a 25 percent reduction since before the program was put in place, which officials credit to the automated cameras.


Among those who oppose work zone speed cameras is the nonprofit National Motorists Association, which calls such programs a predatory practice intended to raise funds.

But the program isn't designed to make money for the state or as a "got ya" trap for drivers, since each speed zone has two signs warning motorists the cameras are in operation, said Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokeswoman Roseann Placey.

"It's not a revenue program," she said.

The Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement website also lists all the active work zones where the cameras could be set up during a given week.

This week Berks County has 28 such zones, while Schuylkill has 71, Montgomery has 42, Chester has 28, Delaware has 22, and Lehigh has 44.

However, there are only 17 active locations across the entire state at any one time.

The program does not pay for itself, and is in place for safety and not monetary reasons, officials said. In fact program expenses have exceeded revenue by almost $1 million since it began, the annual report said, with PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission covering the shortfall.


Since it began in March 2020 there have been 6,596 camera deployments and 842,546 violations issued. Of those, 84% were warnings for first offenses, 11% for second offenses, and 5% for third-offenses, officials said.

The intent is to create enough awareness of the program that violations start dropping, Farley said, and the disparity between first offenses and subsequent notices hopefully shows the warnings are serving as a deterrent.

"We really want to get driver compliance," he said.

There is an appeal process for those who believe they received warnings or fines unfairly, but the only reasons under which a notice of fine will be dismissed is if the recipient can prove that equipment wasn't properly calibrated, the vehicle was stolen, or they're not the registered owner.

Hearings are usually virtual, and so far there have been few violations overturned in part because the machinery is inspected regularly, eliminating that excuse for motorists, Farley said.

Outside of active construction zones in Pennsylvania, speed is only enforced by automated means along a corridor of Route 1, also named Roosevelt Boulevard, in Montgomery and Bucks counties.

There are also red light cameras set up in those two counties and in Philadelphia, and school buses statewide are equipped with cameras on their stop arms so that drivers who illegally pass them can be cited.


PennDOT officials have heard from workers that they've noticed a change in driver speeds through construction zones since the program has been in place, said Jennifer Kuntch, deputy communications director.

"They feel that there is now more of a sense of driver control," she said.

Because it is a pilot program, the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement will end in February 2024 unless it is extended or adjusted by state lawmakers.

But both in terms of crash and speed statistics and anecdotal information from troopers and road crews, the program is successful, officials said, and it would make sense for it to continue.

Placey said that since 2017 the turnpike commission has been trying to encourage safer driving in work zones through its Go Orange program, and that the automated cameras are a big step towards that goal of reducing accidents, injuries and deaths.

Just as it's an automatic reaction for drivers to lift their foot off the gas pedal when they see a police car, she thinks it will become a habit for motorists to slow down when they see signs for the construction zone cameras.

"We already see that," she said, speaking of how turnpike crews notice drivers hitting the breaks when they approach the signs.

"It absolutely is effective," she said.


Data from the start of the program on March 9, 2020, through May 31, 2022:

  • Statewide: 6,600 deployments, 842,700 violations.
  • Montgomery: 500 deployments, 138,000 violations.
  • Berks: 650 deployments, 135,800 violations.
  • Chester: 210 deployments, 105,400 violations.
  • Delaware: 380 deployments, 11,500 violations.
  • Lehigh: 160 deployments, 600 violations.
  • Schuylkill: 100 deployments, fewer than 100 violations (exact number unavailable).

©2022 the Reading Eagle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.