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I-Team: Controversy Over Speed Cameras

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By Ben Simmoneau

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Getting a traffic ticket from a camera is nothing new. In the Delaware Valley, you can get them for running a red light. But what about speeding? The I-Team found there’s a plan that would bring speed cameras to Pennsylvania.

Its part of a proposal buried inside a transportation bill in Harrisburg, allowing speed cameras to track and ticket drivers in highway construction zones.

State Representative Ron Waters is a sponsor of the bill and is in favor of speed cameras.

“Hopefully this will save lives and create a better safety zone for people who are out there working,” Rep. Waters said.

The goal is to slow down drivers in work zones while also freeing up State Troopers who currently monitor those zones where speeding traffic is oftentimes just feet from workers.

In some other states, though, speed cameras have ignited debate. In Maryland they’re on city streets and in highway work zones. If you get caught speeding, the camera snaps a picture of a license plate and a ticket comes in the mail.

“The cameras have never really fully been tested,” said Gene Simmers, who retired from Maryland’s State Highway Administration. He cited a state report that found the cameras were not tested as many times as they should have been and that the type of speed detection equipment used by the cameras in highway work zones was not approved by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“The real reason these speed cameras are being put in are that they’re revenue generators,” he said.

Maryland highway officials stand by the cameras, but lawmakers there are considering changes.

AAA Mid-Atlantic, which covers the Delaware Valley and Maryland, experienced the problems with speed cameras in Maryland first hand. A camera in Baltimore issued one of its trucks a speeding ticket for going 57 in a 25-mile-per-hour zone. The only problem: video from the camera shows the truck clearly is almost stopped.

“It wasn’t even moving and it got a ticket,” said Jenny Robinson, a spokesperson for AAA. “That’s one example of the concerns that we have with automatic enforcement. If it’s not accurate, then there’s no point in using it.”

AAA says cameras can help improve safety, but it’s important that camera companies are not paid per ticket.

“Obviously there’s an incentive for them to issue more tickets,” Robinson said.

So is this simply a money grab?

“It could be and sometimes money talks,” said Pa. Rep. Waters. “They can call it a money grab but there has to be some consequences for people who decide that they’re not going to think about the safety of construction workers.”

Waters says the money collected in Pennsylvania will go toward improving state highways and bridges.

There are still a lot of unknowns about Pennsylvania’s plan, including how much the fine will be, who will end up operating the cameras and will it even be approved by lawmakers. We checked with New Jersey and Delaware and officials in both states say there are no plans right now for speed cameras.

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