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Speed and you’ll get the picture

It’s hard to imagine that there are some drivers who fly through highway work zones at more than 100 mph. It’s a fact, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Motorists, beware. Those speed cameras at some work zones throughout the state that I warned you about last year are coming up on their first anniversary, and they are doing the job.

According to PennDOT, 220,000 tickets and warnings were issued during 2020, and this has resulted in more than $1.7 million in fines being collected from 17,505 payments.

Although unpaid fines have not been turned over to a collection agency yet, PennDOT says that they will sometime starting this year.

Money from the fines will be used for the speed enforcement program. If any money is left over during the first three years of the program, it will be split with 45% going to the state police for equipment, training and recruiting, 15% to PennDOT or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission based on where the violations occur, and 40% to the Motor License Fund.

In the fourth and fifth years, all of the funds will go to PennDOT or the turnpike based on the location of the violations and will be earmarked to develop a work zone and highway safety program.

Drivers get a warning for a first offense, but repeat offenders are fined $75 for a second offense and $150 for a third offense. No points are assessed for any of these violations because the fines are considered a civil rather than a criminal penalty.

The cameras have been set up at various locations along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, including the Northeast Extension in Montgomery County where the superhighway is being widened from two to four lanes in each direction. That program is also coming along in Bucks and Lehigh counties, too.

Cameras also have been stationed along construction sites at interstates and other primary roads, including Route 248 in Carbon County.

According to PennDOT spokesperson Jennifer Kuntch, the goal of deploying these cameras is to make drivers more aware of the additional dangers involved in construction zones. According to national highway statistics, about 20 fatalities a year on average occur in Pennsylvania construction zones.

She assures us that the primary goal is not to be a financial “gotcha” for inattentive motorists, although I am sure that additional revenue is always welcome for cash-strapped agencies such as PennDOT, the Turnpike Commission and the state police.

In addition to Route 248, here is a list of where the other cameras are currently stationed on highways frequented by residents of our area:

• Along the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-476) between mile markers 31 and 38 in Montgomery County.

• On Interstate 78 between mile markers 35 and 43 in Berks County.

• On Interstate 83 between mile markers 3 and 4 in York County.

• On Interstate 80 between mile markers 292 and 294 in Monroe County.

• Along the entire length of Interstate 380 in Monroe County.

Some of you may have been the unlucky recipient of warnings or tickets when the cameras were set up at previous locations during the last 11 months along the turnpike in Carbon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Bucks and Montgomery counties, Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County, Route 22 in Lehigh and Northampton counties, Interstate 80 in Carbon, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, Route 309 in Luzerne County and Route 61 in Berks County.

PennDOT reports that the cameras are doing their jobs, because speeds are being reduced. Data also show, however, that speeds increase once the cameras are removed.

Motorists are advised through signs that the speed cameras are in place, so there is no excuse for ignorance.

Here’s how the system works: The cameras find vehicles that are traveling 11 miles an hour or higher beyond the speed limit. The vehicle owner gets a warning ticket in the mail if it is a first offense or notice of a fine if it is a subsequent violation.

Not everyone is on board with the program. The National Motorists Association is opposed to speed cameras, calling them a “moneymaker” scheme by government.

I disagree. We motorists should be strong proponents of this program, because careless driving puts workers in danger, so we need to do our part to protect these men and women in the workplace. Those who ignore speed limits in work zones should pay the price.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com