WSDOT to use camera vehicle to catch construction-zone speeders

WSDOT to use camera vehicle to catch construction-zone speeders

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:56 PM PDT

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Speedy drivers on Interstate 5 are about to meet a new adversary faster than they are.

It’s a high-tech camera-computer system inside a white van, with a big, 4-foot-by-5-foot sign on the back. Sitting near road construction zones, the camera system will snap a photo of a speeding vehicle, and its registered owner may later get a ticket in the mail.

State transportation officials hope the cameras will make roadside construction safer and reduce the nearly 2,000 traffic incidents that occur in state highway work zones.

While other traffic cameras are already in use in a few locales around the state — like red light cameras in Lakewood, Wash. — the pilot program will be the first use of such technology by Washington Department of Transportation. It’s unique in its use of a mobile van and adjustable speed thresholds.

How fast you’ll need to go above the limit to qualify for a ticket is something of a mystery.

“There’s more questions than answers,” at this point, said Sgt. Freddy Williams of the Washington State Patrol, which is working with WSDOT on the program.

WSDOT spokeswoman Alice Fiman said the project is “all about safety,” not making more revenue. Williams said the money from the program would mostly go to local law enforcement and courts.

“We would be happy if not one ticket would be issued if people would slow down,” Fiman said.

There is only one camera vehicle right now and it will only appear in construction zones in the next three to four weeks, with signs warning motorists in advance, Fiman said. Chehalis and Grand Mound will be priorities, she said.

The pilot project was authorized by the state Legislature last year and WSDOT is expected to report back to lawmakers in 2009. Fiman said the agency welcomes public comments on the project.

Fiman said there will be an operator inside the van monitoring the process in real time. The contractor will conduct “speed studies” before beginning and will consult the local state patrol to determine the “threshold” for tickets.

If a motorist is moving with traffic but faster than a work zone speed limit — say, 64 mph in a 60 mph zone — the device won’t issue a ticket, Fiman said. State law also mandates that tickets sent be “infractions,” not “moving violations” and won’t become part of a motorist’s record.

The registered owner of the vehicle will be sent a ticket, as will the court system. Registered owners who weren’t driving the vehicle will have the option to sign and mail an “affidavit of non-operation,” but if no action is taken, the case will be sent to collections.

Similar systems have been put into use in California, Illinois and New Mexico.

Fiman doesn’t think the first automated process for issuing tickets on state highways will be unpopular, but WSDOT plans a “major media blitz” prior to the launch.

“It’s just people are curious,” Fiman said. “It doesn’t really seem that controversial, because it’s all about safety.”

Tortoise wrote on Jul 23, 2008 2:16 AM:
" Good! There is NO reason to speed in a construction zone. I just can't wait to hear from the whiners who will almost certainly post here about this being another big cash cow for the state's coffers. I don't care! I hope they make hundreds of thousands of dollars sending out tickets to the inconsiderate, reckless drivers who speed through construction zones at mach 2 putting people's lives in jeapordy. There is no reason to complain about this safety measure, but I am sure some people will find something to whine about. It's inevitable. "

Commenter wrote on Jul 23, 2008 6:15 AM:
" Good, they need one at the I5/504 Interchange construction site. People fly through there well over 70mph. "

viper wrote on Jul 23, 2008 9:27 AM:
" Excellent Idea I have seen many people fly threw construction zones and is very unsafe if caught more then 3 times they should be givin jail time to make them understand that people want to go home alive and speeding in a construction zone is really a bad idea : Viper "

Louie wrote on Jul 23, 2008 10:58 AM:
" Why did it take so long to figure out the need for this action? There have been so many deaths in construction sites including a flagger right out on Ocean Beach Highway just east of Stella. "

Rural Citizen wrote on Jul 23, 2008 11:10 AM:
" I saw this thing already last week. I was coming into the construction zone in Clark County where they're building the new Battleground interchange. I usually drive in the #2 lane and go 70mph not because I want to but because if you don't keep up you get ran over on that highway. People shoot past me all the time going 80 plus on the left.

When I came to the camera/sign thing I looked quickly at my speedometer and saw that I was going 60mph, which is what I am supposed to do. The sign on the camera van said I was going 55. Now I am wondering if my speedometer is out of whack??? I wonder how many other people have a speedometer not working right? Or is that thing set to make us speed and make money?

Another question. Since most of the dangerous speeders on the highway are TRUCKS mostly from Canada that go 70 to 75mph and block all three lanes when they are moving about; is the camera set up to get THEIR FACES IN THAT HIGH CAB? Will truck drivers get ticketed too?

Something has to be done to re train those truck drivers. I don't understand how ANY of them can afford to speed with fuel prices so high. "

memberid wrote on Jul 23, 2008 1:05 PM:
" This is obviously just another big cash cow for the state's coffers. Why is the state spending money on catching speeders when we don't even have a good skate park for our children? Won't somebody please think of the children?!! "

no one wrote on Jul 23, 2008 1:40 PM:
" " This is obviously just another big cash cow for the state's coffers. Why is the state spending money on catching speeders when we don't even have a good skate park for our children? Won't somebody please think of the children?!! "

It's okay to kill them in congested construction zones as long as they have a skate park? "