Road Construction - Hammond

Traffic navigates through a construction zone on the Indiana Toll Road in Hammond. State lawmakers are advancing a plan authorizing the use of automated camera enforcement to ticket motorists exceeding the speed limit by at least 11 mph in highway work zones.

The Crossroads of America could become considerably more photogenic if a Northwest Indiana lawmaker succeeds in enacting legislation to use cameras to enforce the reduced speed limit in highway work zones.

State Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, won approval by the Pressel-led House Roads and Transportation Committee on Tuesday for a plan authorizing the Indiana Department of Transportation to bring speed camera enforcement to the Hoosier State.

Under current law, a motorist who exceeds the reduced speed limit in a highway work zone by even 1 mph can be stopped by police and fined $300 for a first violation, $500 for a second violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation — along with facing the possibility of losing their driver's license.

House Bill 1015 would substitute speed cameras for police patrols at four "pilot" highway work zones, let speeding motorists off with a warning for a first violation and impose just a $75 fine for the second and a $150 fine for each subsequent violation with no risk of losing their license.

In addition, under the legislation the work zone speed camera would not trigger a violation until a motorist exceeds the reduced speed limit by at least 11 mph — putting construction workers at risk of increased injury or death from intentionally unenforced speeding violations.

Despite the provisions of his legislation, the LaPorte County lawmaker said he hopes cameras will slow motorists down in highway work zones, initially by educating them about the dangers speeding vehicles pose to construction workers as well as drivers and passengers in other vehicles.

"People are driving way too fast," Pressel said. "The goal is to get people to slow down, to protect our workers and to protect our motorists."

Pressel's legislation limits INDOT to acquiring just four camera systems that could only be used at a total of four work zones over the course of a calendar year. Workers would have to be present and working for the camera enforcement to be active.

The plan also requires work zone speed camera tickets be issued to the owner of the vehicle, regardless of who was driving at the time. The fine revenue would be deposited in Indiana's General Fund, which pays for most state government spending, according to the proposal.

"There are some really good guardrails put in place in this," Pressel said. "I've done this (bill) for three years now. It's in the best spot possible"

The measure was approved by the committee, 12-1, with support from Region state Reps. Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago; Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso; and Pressel.

In prior years, speed camera initiatives repeatedly have died at the Statehouse thanks to a coalition of limited-government Republicans and individual liberty-loving Democrats forming to oppose them.

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