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Md. work-zone tickets down, but fatalities are up

Wednesday - 2/5/2014, 6:14am  ET

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According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, eight people, including four highway workers, were killed in work-zone crashes in 2013. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON -- As the overall number of speed camera tickets issued in work zones in Maryland decreased in 2013, the number of fatalities in work zones increased.

According to a new AAA Mid-Atlantic analysis, 349,766 drivers were caught going 12 mph or more over the speed limit last year. Like the school zone speed cameras, each ticket costs $40. All told, those tickets could generate up to $14 million for Maryland.

But such tickets have dropped dramatically over the past few years. In 2011, AAA Mid-Atlantic reports, 529,367 drivers were ticketed; 417,691 received tickets in 2012.

"Such tickets dropped 16.2 percent between 2012 and 2013. Despite this success, the number of workers killed in worked zones has increased to five in the last 13 months alone," says John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs.

"This is devastating. It's tragic. It's a sobering reminder that motorists have an even greater responsibility to drive safely in work zones and to redouble their efforts to safeguard the lives and limbs of highway workers."

According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, eight people, including four highway workers, were killed in work-zone crashes in 2013.

Another worker was killed last week when a pickup truck hit and killed contractor John C. Kahl on the Baltimore Beltway near Liberty Road. In June 2013, a driver hit and killed contractor Erick Meekins on Maryland 216, near Interstate 95 in Scaggsville in western Laurel.

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, more than 2,000 crashes occur every year in work zones. The cameras were established under the Maryland SafeZones initiative in July 2010.

"Speeding violations in SafeZones construction sites have decreased by approximately 80 percent," SHA wrote in a news release last year.

"When the program began, approximately seven out of every 100 drivers in the SafeZones construction areas were exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph or more. Today, fewer than two drivers out of every 100 are exceeding that limit."

SafeZone cameras were not present in several zones where highway workers were killed last year. SHA also uses mobile vehicles with cameras mounted on them to issue tickets and each vehicle is moved around to various locations each year.

"The Maryland State Highway Administration appreciates the vote of confidence from AAA, since we have worked very hard to create and deliver a program that first and foremost enhances safety. The goal of SafeZones is to protect those who work in and travel through work zones," says SHA spokeswoman Lora Rakowski.

"These tragedies underscore the dangers of work zones and the critical importance of traffic safety tools such as automated speed enforcement."

Townsend agrees the cameras are important.

"Speed-camera programs across the state of Maryland are controversial, of late. But perhaps the least controversial of these is the Maryland SafeZones," he says.

Unlike the speed cameras near school zones, work-zone speed cameras can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two such cameras are on I-95 in Laurel, between Md. Route 198 and Contee Road, just south of last June's fatal accident. Another four are in Frederick County on U.S. 340/15, between Motter Avenue and Mt. Zion Road in Ballenger Creek. Another work zone camera is on I-70 at South Street in Frederick.

For a full list of locations, click here.

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