St. Lawrence County drivers speeding through work zones to get automated tickets

Posted 11/28/23

BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI North Country This Week Travelers who speed through work zones in New York may now receive automated tickets after state officials passed legislation to allow for the use of such …

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St. Lawrence County drivers speeding through work zones to get automated tickets


North Country This Week

Travelers who speed through work zones in New York may now receive automated tickets after state officials passed legislation to allow for the use of such technology.

According to the state’s website, there were 378 work zone intrusions in New York in 2021.

A work zone intrusion is defined “as an incident where a motor vehicle has entered a portion of the roadway that is closed due to construction or maintenance activity.”

Officials say 50 of those incidents resulted in injuries for either highway workers or the vehicle occupants.

The Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE) program came from legislation signed by Governor Hochul in Sept. 2021.

The five-year program is a joint effort by the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Transit Authority to “enhance the state’s ongoing efforts to slow motorists down in work zones to make our highways safer,” officials say.

According to the state’s website, the AWZSE program allows the state to impose fines on the registered owner of a vehicle caught speeding in a work zone on a controlled access highway.

Officials say work zone enforcement will be located in construction or maintenance zones with clear signage indicating AWZSE equipment is present.

Constitutionality Questions

While New York State officials are moving forward with the automated program, some states have taken action to pass legislation outlawing such programs.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, many states have prohibitions in their laws to prevent the use of automated enforcement technology, while others have legislation enabling law enforcement to use such systems within set parameters.

Federal officials have issued guidance documents for the use of such systems, including those used at red lights as well.

In 2009, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that issuing a citation to vehicle owners or lessees, instead of the driver, is constitutionally permissible with the court’s ruling on Idris v. City of Chicago.

Critics of such enforcement schemes also argue that cameras violate an individual’s privacy and therefore their Fourth Amendment rights.

That notion was also struck by the U.S. Supreme Court when justices ruled that driving on regulated public roads, individuals have no personal expectation of privacy.

Some states have taken matters into their own hands.

Missouri and Utah Supreme Courts both ruled that the use of such cameras are unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment.

The Sixth Amendment protects an individual’s right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein a crime is alleged to have been committed.

Individuals are also to be informed as to the nature and cause of the accusation facing them and are allowed to face their accuser while obtaining witnesses in their favor.

Justices in both states say the use of such cameras and the legal process behind them violate the Sixth Amendment and essentially eliminates an individual’s right to due process.

How ticketing works

State officials clarified how such systems will work in New York, saying the accused still maintain the ability to contest such tickets.

Each enforcement system is run through a daily self-check before capturing violations, officials say.

After an initial warning period, if the driver of the vehicle fails to comply with the posted speed limit, the owner of that vehicle will receive a notice of liability in the mail.

When it comes to the actual speed enforcement, officials say radar will be used to identify any vehicle traveling faster than or equal to the posted speed limit, triggering the system to capture photos and the speed of the vehicle.

A series of images are captured as the vehicle approaches and passes the camera, including two of the back of the vehicle, to show the distance and time of travel.

The data is collected, including time, date, posted speed, vehicle speed, location, lane and direction of travel, along with license plate information.

A state certified technician then reviews the violation and certifies the information is correct before sending a notice of liability to the registered owner of the vehicle.

First violations result in a $50 fine, with a second violation triggering a $75 fine if within an 18-month period of the first violation.

Third violations and any subsequent violation will result in a $100 fine if within an 18-month period of the first violation.

All fines are subject to additional late fees, however officials say violators will be able to contest the notice of liability by logging into the program’s website to submit documentation on reasons outlined as allowable offenses by the legislation.

If violators fail to pay their fines, registration on vehicles will receive a hold.

Additional Criticisms

Another point of criticism for New York’s system is the fact that the registered owner of the vehicle is issued the ticket, regardless of who may be driving the vehicle.

Federal officials say this approach “places the burden on the registered owner, regardless of who was driving the vehicle to resolve the citation.”

In many cases the only defenses would be in cases where it can be demonstrated the vehicle had changed ownership, was stolen or an error occurred during the citation, officials say.

Federal officials say such automated speed enforcement systems should be used as a component of “a broader traffic safety and speed management program” and should be used to supplement traditional enforcement efforts or “in locations where enforcement may be unsafe or impractical for LEOs to make traffic stops” such as construction zones.

According to the NHTSA, numerous studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of such systems, receiving mixed results.

While some studies have shown speed zone systems and red light cameras were effective in enforcement, others have suggested that such systems have led to an increase in lower impact rear end crashes where such systems are installed.

Officials with the NHTSA say such technology does not cause traffic crashes but rather studies have found “that intersections with high total volumes, higher entering volumes on the main road, longer green (through) cycle lengths, protected left turn phases, and higher publicity may also increase the safety and cost benefits of red light camera enforcement.”

State officials say they hope the use of such systems will reduce the number of incidents in highway work zones, with potential plans to begin implementing red light camera systems in the near future.

Camera locations

According to the state’s website, no cameras are currently in use in St. Lawrence County.

Multiple cameras are in use in areas that North Country residents may frequent including some on I-81, I-87 and I-495.

However, state officials say the state DOT may deploy AWZSE mobile units in scheduled work zones throughout the state on eligible highways.

Though the list offered by the state is not comprehensive, officials say the mobile units may move based on work schedules, weather and priorities.

Final positioning of the units will be determined the morning of each deployment.