Conn. (WTNH) — A new pilot program to catch speeders in highway work zones is raising some eyebrows. The program uses automated cameras to photograph speeders and then sends a ticket in the mail.
State officials say last year there were nearly 900 crashes in highway work zones; in total, four people died.
State Representative Tami Zawitowski, the Republican Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee, said, “You have to balance public policy with privacy.”
While Zawitowski agrees with safety measures, camera speed traps are not what all members of the Transportation Committee had in mind. They voted to take the measure out of a safety bill. But the work zone cameras language showed up in a budget implementor bill.
Zawitowski, who represents the 61st District (Suffield and East Windsor), said, “It just flies in the face of good legislation.”
Here’s how the pilot works:
Drivers going more than 15 miles an hour over the posted limit in a highway work zone will have their license plates recorded. A first violation means a warning. A second violation includes a $75 fine. A third violation $150 fine.
State Senator Will Haskell, the Democratic co-chair of the Transportation Committee, explained, “If you are going above the speed limit a camera will capture your license plate and you’ll get a ticket in the mail.”
He says Maryland and Pennsylvania already have automated work zone cameras. Haskell added, this was a priority of him and his co-chair State Rep. Roland Lemar (New Haven). “I believe this is going to change behavior and save a lot of lives.”
But the union representing state Troopers is against the cameras. They say it takes away work.
Haskell sees it differently. “We are trying to offer a helping hand here. We are going to take some of that speed enforcement off of your [state police’s] plate.”
The union says the cameras also present constitutional challenges. What if the owner is not driving the car?
Haskell says the legislation was written to maintain rights. “The rights of the car owner are preserved in the case that the ticket is incorrectly identified.” Meaning, the car’s owner would have to appeal in court.
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to roll out the program in the summer once they’ve chosen a vendor. Camera locations have not been decided.
Deputy Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto from the DOT says a request for proposals will go out next month. “We will have to make sure it’s in a location that cameras are able to catch the drivers, not to pose a safety hazard based on the curvature of the roadway or placement of cameras.”
Because this is a temporary program violation will not go against your insurance.
Zawitowski says this is a money grab. “The only express purpose I could see out of this was to raise revenue.”
The state troopers’ union agrees. Their attorney Andrew Matthews added, “Public take note, the chair of the Transportation Committee passed this policy in the dark of night rather than hold a public hearing.”
Supporters, however, say the pilot will help identify speed bumps. They want to eventually set up these work zone speed traps statewide.
The state police union’s attorney told News 8 they are adamantly against the program and will be educating the public on how to get out of the tickets.