Work zones to get cameras
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Work zones to get cameras

Rockford Register Star | April 3, 2005

SPRINGFIELD -- Slowing down to 45 miles per hour for construction zones, even when workers aren't present, seems like a drag when you're in a rush or enjoying a cruise on the highway.

But state policymakers, who hope to prevent accidents like the one in 2003 that killed a construction worker from Rockford, are taking extraordinary measures to make sure you do.

They hiked the fine for speeding in a construction zone to $375 and the fine for a subsequent offense to $1,000. Repeat offenders also lose their driver's licenses for 90 days.

Now, with the summer road construction season approaching, the state plans to nab speeding motorists with radar detectors that work in conjunction with cameras.

When a motorist speeds through a construction zone, the camera snaps a picture of the vehicle, license plate and driver. The state follows up with a ticket in the mail.

"The goal is to get self-compliance," said Matt Vanover, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "That means to get people to slow down and not have them speed at all."

He said the program probably would start with two units, which would be mounted in vans, and that they could be used at any highway construction zone in the Chicago area, including along the tollway stretch to Rockford.

Under a new state law providing for the pilot program, the state must post notice that camera units could be in use at construction zones.

"Basically, the sign would say 'photo enforcement,' " Vanover said.

Vanover acknowledged the program might not have prevented the death of Deborah Wead, the Rockford construction worker who died after a highway accident, but said the state was sending a message that speeding through a construction zone is dangerous.

Walter Brown, a Lemont man who was drunk when he struck Wead with his vehicle on an entrance to Interstate 290 in Schaumburg, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and is serving a 10-year sentence in prison.

"If somebody is wasted on alcohol and they're behind the wheel, then there's nothing we can do to protect people in the work zone," Vanover said. "That person needs to get off the road, period. We have laws in place for that, but some people ignore that."

Indeed, the Rockford Register Star found little criticism of the plan, even among civil libertarian groups. Neither the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union nor the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, D.C., reported objections.

Only the Libertarian Party of Illinois complained. Ken Prazak, the party's vice chairman for media and communications, called the cameras an invasion of privacy.

"It's just another aspect, one more step toward a police state," he said. "I don't think our founding fathers envisioned spy cameras on our citizens."

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