By on April 27, 2009

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) dedicated last week to “Work Zone Safety Awareness” so that it could begin redeploying speed cameras on freeways. Bright orange publicity signs told motorists to “Give ’em a Brake” while fifty-six bright orange highway worker jackets hung from WSDOT offices as a reminder of the number of highway workers who have died since 1950. “The men and women who work on our state and local highways are often working in and near traffic, and we want everyone to go home to their loved ones at the end of their work day,” WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond said in a statement. According to WSDOT’s own statistics, however, they do go home safely each night.

Ninety-nine percent of “work zone” accidents in the state only affect drivers and their passengers, not workers. Washington’s findings mirror those of national statistics that show automobiles pose far less of a danger to highway workers and that the latter are most frequently killed while operating their own equipment. Even so, no highway worker has died on the job in Washington in the past seven years.

“Pedestrians, flaggers and roadway workers account for only one percent of these injuries or fatalities,” the WSDOT website admits. “Most deaths and injuries in work zones are caused by rear-end collisions.”

When promoting red light cameras, however, Washington state officials downplay the relevance and severity of rear end collisions.

Still, in the name of protecting these workers, the Washington State Patrol will dish out doubled fines for speeding in work zones. The private contractor American Traffic Solutions will also be in the same areas mailing out an even greater number of speeding citations, worth $137 each, from photo radar vans. These ticketing vans were first deployed between September and October last year. This time, ticketing will continue for seven months through October. At the rate tickets were issued in 2008, the vans should issue nearly $1 million worth of citations by year’s end.

WSDOT will deploy the cameras on Interstate Five in Lewis County and will move them south of Olympia to Grand Mound on May 4.

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19 Comments on “WA Deploys Work Zone Cams On False Pretext...”


  • avatar
    dolorean23

    This is another cash cow for our new Big Brother system of local government. I’ve lloked into this as part of a paper and found the same results; the vast majority of road workers injured or killed on the job occured by their own cause, not the errant speeder. In those cases where a driver did ram through the cones, barriers, and lights, it was attributable to alcohol or cell phone, not speed. This is a really pathetic way to make a buck and wrapping it up in the ashes of dead workers (seriously, going ALL the way back to the ’50’s to make it sound more menacing!) deminishes the substantial impact these laborers have done for our society.

  • avatar

    Screw it. Why keep up with the pretense this is about safety when everyone knows it’s about revenue?

    Why not just be honest about it, pass legislation that gives your local city clerk and state treasury the routing numbers for your bank account and whenever they feel like it, they can debit your account. That’s really no more arbitrary than the way they use traffic enforcement to generate revenue.

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    Is it not enough that the State of Washington continually drills into our heads that they have no money for the Elderly and the schools (we must raise taxes). They are closing some of the most beloved state parks. They just cancelled support for all junior high athletics – no more baseball, basketball, football. We have had some of the largest population increases of any state in the last 10 years. We have some of the highest taxes in the USA. YET – we have no money.

    Now – they pick on the family guy who is late for his kids scout meeting and doing 7 mph over becuase of some lame emotional excuse for placing traffic cameras – 1% of the 1% of the road workers are killed by speeders in work zones. What a cheap way to go.

    I have been all over the USA and I have never seen such a drama driven state government as Washington state.

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    BTW – I wonder how much they paid for the vests they hung on the building, (they shouldn’t have any extra these days), the rental costs for the hi-lift to put them up there, etc. They rolled this out to all the news outlets free, headline story. Absolutley perfect PR orchestration – they completed the ‘sales’ campaign for this well. Now all they have to do is start banking the money. Pathetic.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Politicians love these electronic revenue machines in every form. Eventually each car will have a complete monitoring system that checks for alcohol on your breath, speed, G forces, location, emissions, red lights, stop signs, everything.

    The data can be uploaded automagically and tacked on to your registration bill, or merely deducted from your checking account like a toll charge. All data will be generously shared with the insurance companies, just like medical information, and with a click of a mouse the powers to be can restrict driving, control your car, and control you.

    Check back in a few years and see if this does not come to pass.

    At least my bicycle depends on me for power, that stops all of this in it’s tracks.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    Blobinski,

    “Is it not enough that the State of Washington continually drills into our heads that they have no money for the Elderly and the schools (we must raise taxes!!)..”

    What they continually drill into your heads is the “Budget”, the “Budget”, the “Budget” shortfalls. I know.

    What you need to do is go to Google Video and watch a short clip entitled “Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports Exposed”. You will be AMAZED.

    It’s like you…a worker who makes say $1000/week and “Budgets” $300/month for food. When you spend $330/month, you CRY you have EXCEEDED your “Budget”…and then tell your wife she needs to get a second job to make up for the “shortfall”.

    It’s all a game of lies and manipulation.

    What you need to do is find the 2008 CAFR for your area.

    Here’s an old one I found for Vancouver (2007).

    http://www.cityofvancouver.us/upload/images/FMS/reports/2007CAFR.pdf

    Try finding the 2008 STATE CAFR. If there is indeed a “shortfall”, it should be exposed there. Otherwise, try not to fall for the lie of a “Budget” crisis.

    That’s why whenever you turn on the TV, that’s ALL you ever hear about…the “Budget Crisis” repeated over and over and over again.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    People ignore work zone signs because the signs, and the people responsible for them lied to the drivers for years.

    How many times do you find the work zone signs marking areas where there are no workers, or have been placed such that the work zone has been set up for several miles when the actual work zone is a few hundred feet that moves along at the rate of a few hundred yards per week?

    Admittedly, they are finally getting better at this, though they have done it by reassigning the labor and cost from signage marking detours and resigning the area after the project such that when they are thru, only the locals can navigate.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    “When promoting red light cameras, however, Washington state officials downplay the relevance and severity of rear end collisions.”

    Are we talking about “Red Light” cameras or “Speed” cameras?

    The fractional number of drivers exceeding the temporary speeds in construction zones has statistically zero impact on highway worker safety. The accident statistics do not support any kind of a problem of this type where this solution should be considered.

    Pure revenue generator because they can get away with doing it.

    And there is nothing you can do about, even if you never get a ticket: You must accept the increased risk of death and injury and pay the increased costs to 1) the city, county, and state for rear-end accident management, 2) commercial traffic delays, and 3) the several insurance companies that have an involvement in this.

  • avatar
    kamikaze2b

    Of those who were killed, just how many were killed by a motorist actually hitting them, vs worksite accidents? I’ll wager that less than 20% were actually killed by motorists.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Over the past 20 years I can not remember a single report of any Caltrans worker being injured or killed by a purely speeding driver. Every time it has been a drunk driver who was speeding. It doesn’t take much of a leap of faith to decide that the major contributing factor in those injuries and deaths was the drunkeness not the speed. If a car hits me at 55 mph, I doubt that I will be any less dead than if they hit me at 70 mph.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Unfortunately the politicians of my home state aren’t far behind those of California in their dedication to left-wing causes and concurrent ignorance of economics leading to an inability to budget properly. On top of that we’ve had for years a Washington State Patrol that thinks using its troopers for speed cops is the right thing to do.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    That’s pretty lame for them to go all the way back to the ’50s to make their number significant. It’d be one thing if those 50 people had been in a year, or even a decade, but 1 person a year? That seems rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Sure, any death is a tragedy, but for such a potentially dangerous job, 1 a year isn’t shocking. Our liberties are slowly eroding with every camera. I’m waiting for the day when they come to install the camera/video screen in my home…

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Never in the finanical analysis do they calculate the medical expenses of the additional number of permanently disabled due to the increased crashes caused by the cameras.

    Apply the camera revenue to those medical expenses and the number takes a wild swing into the red.

  • avatar
    JohnHowardOxley

    @ GS650G:

    You are entirely on the mark that the computer-communication nexus is going to be able to do these sorts of things Real Soon Now — I would estimate they are about 80% of the way already. Knowing the relative ease with which governments roll over people, I cannot see that this will be resisted by political action.

    But as any study of networking shows, for every monitoring action there is a deceptive counter-action — and I suspect that clever programmers will come up with ways to poison the databases, jam the signals, and glimmer the detectors. This may take some time, but with will it can be done.

    We already have prototype examples of this in ‘darknets’ — a way in which malefactors duck under network detection ‘radars’ — the principles are exactly analogous and applicable.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    @JohnHowardOxley

    Some would state it can’t happen here, we got ourselves rights and a constitution. We’ll see how that works out.

    The best defense is always low tech and outdated methods. Just pretend it’s 30 years ago and you’ll see what I mean. In England, thieves stole tags and even duplicated them with stickers to fool the cameras and revenue machines. Low tech solution at it’s best. Older cars and motorcycles will need our cooperation to be retrofitted with these systems. The Rush song Red Barchetta is playing in the background right now.

    The key is to reject the convenience of the technology to preserve your freedom and privacy. That is the challenge. And you’re right about human nature. Crafty methods will emerge to defeat this system. I think there will be a serious calling for “car hackers” in the future that can create profiles and returns to keep drivers out of the lime light.

    Of course there is that philosophy of I Don’t Do Anything Wrong So I Don’t Have Anything To Hide. That depends entirely on who is asking the questions.

  • avatar
    GTIKLLR

    Black boxes in cars are already marketed from insurance companies to overly concerned controlfreak parents by dangling the lower priced policy above their noses.

    Our neighbors kid goes to Rutgers(NJ).He has the “electronic right shoe bracelet” installed on his 2007 G35.He regularly gets “written up” on w/e’s when he commutes faster back home than the alloted time by electronic snitch courrier to his parents. Scary.

    Fact is NTHSB has full access to this data as a study for further mandatory deployment of these systems in new cars from say, 2015 on.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    To those that think controlling a population through monitoring is necessary and proper I say it’s one thing to be governed by the laws of nature and another by the fickle laws of men.

    We can’t really count on common sense reasonable laws written by wise impartial representatives any more. Special interest groups and far out loons use legislation to implement what would never pass a simple majority vote, and when the population gets a choice such measures are regularly shot down. Occasionally the media paints a proposal as a panacea for some perceived crisis (like work zone accidents) so that you MUST support this law or you’re stupid and insensitive.

    I see these DOT worker safety billboards all over the place, they act as if DOT workers are being taken out several times a day. Such ads usually precede laws about having your headlights on in a construction zone (PA), increased fines in a construction zone, DOT signs with radar emitters that trip detectors in a construction zone, and ultimately roving ticket scameras in a construction zone with 30 mph speed drops ahead of the cones.

    Portable sensors and relay equipment is cheap and can easily be deployed along with the orange cones. Think of it as a way to pay for the orange cones so more money is left for social programs and pet pork projects.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    WVDOT sets up these work zones. They’ll drop the speed from 70 mph to 45. The signs or almost without fail incorrect (a “45 MPH Work Zone” sign followed by an uncovered “Speed Limit 70 mph” sign followed by a non-flashing “Speed Limit 55 mph When Flashing” sign followed by two WV state troopers pulling cars over for 47 mph – I see this constantly).

    Further, they’ll set these up without warning, closing lanes with barrels or simply placing barrels along the side of the road for two-three miles and the aforementioned signs. You’ll drive through on your commute one day normally, the next day there are barrels and signs everywhere, most haphazardly placed on the shoulder or partially in one of the lanes (it’s a fine for hitting a barrel, you cannot collect from the state for damage to your car from hitting one). The “work zone” will remain for 2-3 weeks, not one barrel moving, not one sign changing (oftentimes the “55 when flashing” signs will be 50% flashing, 50% not turned on). The only guarantee you have is that the only state employees you will see in the “work zones” are cops sitting in marked or unmarked cars, usually waiting just over a rise on the shoulder (often at night with no lights on whatsoever) pointing in the direction of travel for a speedy revenue booster. Work zones are almost certainly devoid of actual DOT workers 100% of the time. Then, 2-3 weeks after they go up, the signs and barrels mysteriously disappear overnight, usually moved 5 miles down the road. In their place will be the same pavement, the same signs, the same faded lines that aren’t visible in rain or at night, the same potholes, the same grooves, the same dented guardrails from a years-ago accident (never fixed). No change whatsoever.

    This happens over and over again. Oh, and not worried about the $25-100 fine you recieved? No problem. But then you find out whether you mail it in or not, you must pay state court costs. Even if you decline to contest it and there is no court hearing whatsoever. How much, you ask? Last time I had a ticket here, the fine was $25, the court costs amounted to $351. No joke.

    We don’t have a red light or speed camera in the state, but it doesn’t stop the sad-sack politicians from fleecing the populace.

    This in a state only beaten to the bottom by Katrina-torn Louisiana for median income, obesity, % uninsured, poorest schools, etc., etc., etc. No time/money to fix the actual problems, but our governor is building a multi-million-dollar casino resort destination in one of the poorest over-10,000-resident towns in the state. He is a majority owner, it’s being built largely with state funds.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    With so much wealth being steered to West Virginia roads by Senator Byrd they can’t require much work any longer. WV is a shame, such natural beauty and sully politicians.


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