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Pennsylvania to Use Cameras to Detect Speeding in Work Zones

In accordance with new state legislation, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will roll out automated camera systems to monitor speed limits in construction areas and issue fines through license plate capture.

(TNS) — New technology will keep an eye out for speeders in construction zones on Pennsylvania highways starting this fall. Automated camera systems will measure vehicle speeds and snap photos of vehicle license plates. Drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by 11 mph or more in active work zones will get a warning in the mail for a first offense and will be ticketed for $75 and $150 fines for second and third offenses.

But don't expect the camera systems on every state highway and byway.

The state expects to roll out just two of the automated speed enforcement systems this year and has not decided where they will be placed, said Jill Harry, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The department first has to design signs to notify drivers of work zones where an automated enforcement system will be in use, as required by the October 2018 state law that authorized automated enforcement. It also has other details to work out, Harry said.

"Right now we're still going through evaluation and planning to see how to implement this," she said. "We're looking at signs and how we're going to do other education and announcements to make sure that people are informed when the systems are in place. A process for (administering) the system needs to be worked out as well."

The state expects to have 10 of the automated systems in use by the end of 2020, Harry said. The law allows for their use on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, interstate highways and other state roads.

The automated camera systems are meant to slow traffic through work zones and save lives, Fritzi Schreffler, PennDOT's Harrisburg area safety officer, said in a video posted to the department Facebook page Friday.

"We are really hoping this is going to save lives and make people think about their driving behaviors in work zones," Schreffler said.

A construction worker was hit and killed by a car on Interstate 90 in Harborcreek in August. Jacqueline Ohly, 26, of Wisconsin, had been installing cable barriers in the highway median for a construction firm hired by PennDOT.

A 20-year-old Erie man accused in Ohly's death is awaiting trial on charges including homicide and aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence.

Statewide, there were 1,778 work-zone crashes, including 19 fatalities, in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. More than 1,100 people were injured.

The automated speed enforcement systems can only be used in active construction zones, according to state law. Tickets written as a result of high speeds caught on camera will be mailed to drivers within 30 days of the violations. Fines must be paid within 90 days and will not be reflected on drivers' records.

Fines will pay for the technology and the costs to administer the system. Additional money collected will go to state police, who will get 45 percent of the revenues; the Motor License Fund, 40 percent, for General Assembly-approved transportation projects; and PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 15 percent, for additional construction zone safety projects.

Images from the camera systems cannot be used for other surveillance purposes, according to state law. But a court could order that images be turned over to law enforcement if requested in a criminal case.

The state will pilot the automated speed enforcement system for five years. State police are required to report annually to House and Senate transportation committee leaders on the number of work-zone crashes and fatalities, the number of warnings and tickets issued and other data. Legislators will decide whether to reauthorize the system after five years.

The video explaining the new automated enforcement system was posted on PennDOT's Facebook page during the state's Highway Safety Law Awareness Week that ended Saturday. The video is one of several advising drivers of recent changes in highway laws.

Also new:

  • The same law that authorized automated speed enforcement authorizes state police to use light-detection and ranging devices, or LIDAR, in addition to radar to more accurately measure the speed of a particular vehicle in traffic. The system uses pulses of laser light to determine speed.
  • The state's "steer clear" law requiring drivers to move over or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle, traffic stop or disabled vehicle, now additionally requires drivers to move over or slow down when approaching trash and recycling vehicles.
  • Harsher penalties are in place for those convicted of driving under the influence. A third offense in 10 years now might be a felony, depending on the driver's blood-alcohol content. A fourth offense in 10 years automatically is a felony.
©2019 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.