GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Drivers speeding through Michigan construction zones could soon be caught on video and fined.
A new bipartisan bill, House Bill 4132, would put cameras with sensors to detect speeders in work zones. The system would take pictures of speeding cars and their license plates and record the date, time and location. A driver would face penalties for going more than 10 mph over the speed limit in a construction zone with workers present.
The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, which helped put the bill into action, said it’s about protecting road workers.
“Construction is viewed as a nuisance,” MITA Executive Vice President Rob Coppersmith told News 8. “People don’t plan or they don’t want to take that extra time. You’ve probably been on the highway and seen people driving like a bullet past you. It only takes one person to screw a lot of things up.”
The process started a few years ago as MITA became involved in a work zone safety task force with the Michigan Department of Transportation. The group started monitoring other states and Coppersmith said the results made the bill “a no-brainer.” Proponents tried pushing forward the legislation last year but ultimately no action was taken.
The new bill was introduced on Feb. 22, co-sponsored by state Reps. Will Snyder, D-Muskegon, and Mike Mueller, R-Linden. Neither lawmaker was available for an interview on Tuesday.
The idea of putting speed cameras in work zones is already in place in other states like Maryland. Advocates want to bring it to Michigan, saying it’s necessary to not only protect construction workers on the job but also drivers.
“This legislation protects those on both sides of the barrel,” Coppersmith said. “If we can get people to slow down, there’s going to be fewer accidents and fewer fatalities.”
In 2021, there were nearly 6,000 work zone crashes across the state, resulting in nearly 1,500 injuries and 20 deaths, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.
“The stories we’ve heard from the workers in the field just really warrant taking an extra step from them,” Coppersmith said.
Speeding drivers would first get a written warning. A second violation within three years would result in a civil infraction and a $150 fine. Any additional infraction within three years would bring a $300 fine. Violations coming more than three years later would reset the process. Coppersmith said breaking the law would not result in any points on your license.
The money raised from tickets would help create a work zone safety fund to increase the number of police officers at work zones.
“It’s just time to take an additional step to prove the citizens of Michigan were serious about protecting workers and protecting them in our work zones,” Coppersmith said. “This is a logical step.”
If the bill passes, an automated speed enforcement unit would be created within Michigan State Police. That group would oversee putting the cameras in place and train operators to use the systems. Within five years, MSP would need to submit to House and Senate transportation committees a report evaluating the program. The report would need to detail how many citations were issued, the cost of installing and using the system and the amount of revenue generated.
Not everyone’s on board with the proposal, including State Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville.
“It absolutely should not be automatic,” Meerman told News 8.
Meerman called the proposal “an overreach of government.”
“You want to talk about big state bureaucracy, big tech… this is going down that path in my mind,” the representative added. “The way we combat that is to make sure these tickets are given out in person.”
He emphasized that he doesn’t want construction workers to get hurt, but he pointed out that higher fines already exist for speeding in work zones. He also said police officers need to be the ones giving out tickets.
“The officer has the ability to look at the case in person on the ground and that’s what’s important,” he said. “When you have that officer pull up to you and pull you over and give you that ticket. We have the right to face the officer.”
Coppersmith pointed out that recruiting road construction workers is already a challenge in Michigan.
“We don’t want anything that deters people or makes them think twice about coming to work in our work zones,” Coppersmith said. “We want to provide the safest opportunities possible. We think this bill will enhance that.”
Meanwhile, Meerman worries about the proposal creating a slippery slope.
“We have a limited workforce as far as officers on the ground and cars on the ground,” Meerman said. “They can’t be everywhere at once. But this is not a road we should cross in deciding that computers can start giving tickets out. (It’s an) important right that the government isn’t just blindly giving out tickets.”
The lawmaker also fears many drivers would be wrongly fined.
“Who do we even know who’s driving this car?” he said. “Who’s getting that ticket? I would venture to guess that half the cars, 30% of the cars out there aren’t driven by the one who’s on the plate. My wife and I have cars together.”
Citing conversations with other Republicans when the previous bill was introduced in 2022, Meerman said he would be surprised if a majority of Republicans supports the legislation this time around.
The bill is currently in committee. Coppersmith said if the bill passes, he hopes the program would be in place by the end of this year or early 2024.