State College, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and its safety partners urged drivers to slow down, especially while traveling through work zones, at a media event held today near the site of a safety improvement project at the intersection of Routes 26 and 45 near Pine Grove Mills. The partners held the event in observance of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs April 11-15, and coincides with the last two weeks of an Aggressive Driving Enforcement Wave running through April 25.
"Speeding, distracted driving and other aggressive driving behaviors jeopardize the lives of all Pennsylvanians, not just the men and women working to maintain and improve our highways," said Steve Fantechi, Assistant District Executive for Construction. "Every person on our roadways, whether a motorist or a construction worker, has a family that wants them to get home safely, and we're all responsible for doing our part to make sure that happens."
Fantechi touted the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE) program as a successful deterrent to speeding in work zones. He referenced the AWZSE Annual Legislative Report while explaining speeding in AWZSE enforced work zones was reduced during the 2021 construction season to 20 percent of all traffic, down from 35 percent at the start of the program. Additionally, excessive speeding, defined as traveling 11 mph or more over the posted speed limit, was reduced to three percent from eight percent at the start of the program.
Pennsylvania's AWZSE program, first implemented in March 2020, uses vehicle-mounted systems to detect and record motorists exceeding posted work zone speed limits by 11 miles per hour or more using electronic speed timing devices. AWZSE systems are only operational in active work zones where workers are present. Work Zones that have an AWZSE system present and active will have unique signs in advance of the enforcement area, alerting drivers to its presence. Registered owners receive a warning letter for a first offense, a violation notice and $75 fine for a second offense, and a violation notice and $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses. These violations are civil penalties only; no points are assessed to driver's licenses.
Sergeant Ryan Hendrick of the Ferguson Township Police Department reminded drivers AWZSE is just one program related to monitoring work zones. He said that under Under Title 75, Section 3326, motorists caught by police driving 11 mph or more above the posted speed limit in an active work zone, or who are involved in a crash in an active work zone and are convicted for failing to drive at a safe speed, automatically lose their license for 15 days. Additionally, fines for certain traffic violations — including speeding, driving under the influence, and failure to obey traffic devices — are doubled for active work zones. The law also provides for up to five years of additional jail time for individuals convicted of homicide by vehicle for a crash that occurred in an active work zone.
Hendrick also reminded motorists that his department and the Patton Township, Spring Township and State College police departments are all participating in the Aggressive Driving Enforcement Wave. He said officers from all those departments will be on the lookout not only for speeders, but for distracted drivers as well, over the next two weeks of the wave.
"Issuing citations isn't anyone's favorite part of being a police officer," said Hendrick. "But neither is responding to crashes involving serious injuries or fatalities. Ultimately we enforce these laws in the hopes of changing driver behavior and preventing crashes from happening."
Josh Woods, Community Traffic Safety Project Coordinator with the Highway Safety Network, said that every motorist will eventually encounter a work zone. He offered the following tips for drivers' safety and the safety of construction workers:
Drive the posted work zone speed limit.
Stay alert and pay close attention to signs and flaggers.
Turn on your headlights if signs instruct you to do so. Motorists are required to travel with their headlights turned on in all posted work zones, not just active work zones. It is necessary for drivers in vehicles with daytime running lights to turn on their headlights to activate their taillights.
Maintain a safe distance around vehicles. Don't tailgate.
Use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly.
Avoid distractions and give your full attention to the road.
Always buckle up.
Expect the unexpected.
Woods also reminded motorists to "Know Before They Go" by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles by visiting www.511PA.com. Woods said 511PA is free, available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. He noted 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, or by calling 5-1-1.
According to preliminary PennDOT data, in 2021 there were 1,617 work zone crashes, resulting in 15 fatalities. Additionally, since 1970, PennDOT has lost 90 workers in the line of duty.
For more information on the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program, including a list of projects where the units are deployed, visit https://workzonecameras.penndot.gov/.
For more information on work zone safety, visit www.PennDOT.pa.gov/Safety.
PennDOT launched a webpage for the Route 26/45 project and encourages the public to check for regular updates.