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New Law Fair Effort To Boost Work Zone Safety

October 22, 2018

Critics of a new state law that allows speed-recording cameras in work zones contend that it is just another effort by the state to extract fine revenue from safe drivers. But the law, which was signed Friday by Gov. Tom Wolf, is a fair effort to create a safer culture around work zones without unduly penalizing those safe drivers. The critics are correct when they argue that worker safety is a function of well-designed traffic patterns through construction areas. But speed is an element of vehicle control and obviously an issue amid the variable conditions of a highway construction zone. According to PennDOT, there were 1,178 work zone crashes statewide in 2017 on all types of roads, 43 percent of which involved injuries to vehicle occupants or workers. Crashes produced 1,106 injuries and 19 deaths — three workers and 16 drivers or passengers of vehicles. The new law creates a five-year pilot program under which cameras may be placed in highway work zones. It requires signage ahead of the work zone to warn drivers that cameras are present in the zone, which serves the ultimate purpose of convincing drivers to observe the posted work zone speed limit. A driver who traverses a zone where workers are present by more than 11 mph over the posted speed limit will receive a written warning, and be subject to a $75 fine for a second offense and $150 fine for a third offense within a year of the first offense. That is a very measured approach that will raise revenue only from drivers who don’t learn from experience. Lawmakers did a good job here trying to create a culture of work zone safety while avoiding turning the initiative into a cash cow.