Michigan Bill introduces surveillance, ticketing in construction zones

LANSING, MI – Drivers who speed in construction zones on Michigan highways could be caught on camera and slapped with a sanction if lawmakers approve a piece of legislation heading to the House floor.

House Bill 5750 would allow the state to install automated speed enforcement systems in construction zones on state highways or streets under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The cameras would photograph the license plates on vehicles speeding over the limit in those zones. The first violation would come with a written warning. Drivers that receive a second violation would be fined $150 and a third violation would be worth $300.

The law comes in the wake of increased fatalities on Michigan’s roads in the last three years.  In 2019 there were 314,377 crashes, and 985 deaths. In 2020, there were 245,432 crashes and 1,083 deaths. Both data points rose higher in 2021, with 282,640 crashes being reported and 1,131 deaths.

With billions of dollars allocated to fixing Michigan’s roads, such as the instillation of a new flex lane along I-96, that will mean there will be more workers on the freeways and that’s worrisome due to the climbing rates of reckless driving.

The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association has noted that drivers continue to speed in work zones, despite warning signs telling them to slow down. The most common type of accident in a work zone is a speeding driver rear ending another car in front of them, it noted.

The association has been vocal about backing the bill, stating that it has seen a rise in deaths among its road crews over the past few years. Michigan State Police has yet to publicly state that it’s backing the bill, but did state that the agency is “continuing to work with stakeholders and bill sponsors to ensure thorough considerations are being made.”

The bill outlines that the surveillance would only occur in construction projects along M-routes, US routes and interstates. Camera enforcement would not be allowed in city or on county road projects. Current major road projects along I-75 and I-275 are highlighted as examples of where enforcement could be useful.

The bill adds that drivers entering an area with enforcement would see a sign that states the area is under surveillance. Cameras would be posted along the route using a speed-detection method called Lidar.

A vehicle going 10 mph or over would have its license plate photographed and sent to state police. The agency would then independently review the case by inspecting the image. If a violation is determined to have occurred, a notice would then be sent to the vehicle’s owner via mail.

If a vehicle owner was not driving at the time of the violation, they have the right to argue the case by mailing an affidavit to the clerk or by testifying under oath that he or she wasn’t driving at the time. The image of the license plate would then be destroyed within 90 days of the conclusion of the case.

If the Bill is approved in Michigan, it would join 13 other states that have already passed similar measures. Maryland, one of the first states to pass a similar bill, has positive data backing the practice. Drivers moving in construction zones have reduced speeds by 90%, with barely anyone going a couple miles over the speed limit.

However, while the enforcement has proven to be effective in other states, Michigan residents are still concerned about privacy issues. State Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) who introduced the bill earlier this year, said that residents shouldn’t have to worry about that. The bill is “narrowly written just to focus on work zones” and “only goes in areas where MDOT and state police find accidents and reports of worker safety problems,” she told FOX 2 News.

The cameras surveilling the construction areas would also not be able to photograph the driver of the car, thus eliminating any chances of racially profiling drivers.

Critics of the bill believe that it’s only being enforced to increase revenue for the state. However, officials argue that the number of violations would go down in the long run once drivers become aware and more cautious of these zones.

Any money obtained from the automated construction zone enforcement would be channeled into a road safety fund. The money made off the citations could only be used for the purpose of improving worker safety, like the construction of barriers or increasing police presence. 

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