Work Zone Speed Cameras Under Fire; Are They Accurate?

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Those work zone speed cameras–designed to keep highway workers safe–have come under criticism from state auditors.

Alex DeMetrick reports the audit highlights a system that took months to work out the bugs.

Work zone speed cameras. People either:

“Hate ’em. Absolutely hate ’em,” one driver said.

Or if not love, they at least:

“Encourage people to obey the law,” said another.

And it has made for safer conditions in construction zones.

But in a state audit reviewed by WJZ’s media partner The Baltimore Sun, getting the system up and running found a lack of adequate assurance that the contractor reported all cases of system errors, and that resulted in citations not being issued.

For example, between 2009 and 2010, only 44 percent of cars photographed were fined. Most of the rest were rejected over reliability issues. That’s $850,000 in lost fines.

“A lot of the review they did was on our pilot program, which obviously was a pilot program,” said Melinda Peters, State Highway Administrator.

And Peters says camera reliability has since been upgraded.

“The system is very accurate. We have calibrations that the systems and units we have out in the field are working appropriately,” she said.

And even with more than one million tickets issued and $34 million in revenue from fines, officials say camera accuracy also means:

“Only 2 percent of the traveling public are getting tickets in these areas. That means 98 percent of the traveling public is traveling at an acceptable speed,” said SHA engineer Margaret Martin.

According to the State Highway Administration, the number of fatalities in work zone crashes dropped by half in the last three years.

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