Drivers who don't slow down in work zones have caused the deaths of DOT employees, including that of Karen Torres' father after a driver lost control of his truck in Eastport. Now, the state is launching its first speed camera program in Long Island highway construction zones. NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Speed cameras on white Jeep Cherokee SUVs were deployed in construction zones across Long Island highways on Wednesday.

The trigger for a ticket: driving more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, according to state law.

Violation monitoring systems were active Wednesday on the Long Island Expressway, Meadowbrook Parkway, Sunrise Highway, Northern State Parkway, and Southern State Parkway, according to the state.

DOT officials said the 30 mobile units will take photos of all speeding motorists on state highways but drivers must hit the established speed over the limit first. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Mobile speed cameras were active Wednesday on the Long Island Expressway, Meadowbrook Parkway, Sunrise Highway, Northern State Parkway, and Southern State Parkway.
  • The state said camera locations will be posted on the state's website
  • Tickets will be issued for drivers going 10 miles over the speed limit in construction work zones on state highways, under state law.

“If you're speeding, you're speeding … In the beginning it's probably going to be 10 miles and over,” Richard Causin, DOT’s Long Island regional director, told Newsday at a press conference promoting National Work Zone Awareness week.

"DOT is not authorizing anyone to go a specific number over the speed limit."

Construction zone speed limits vary by location and type of job.

Causin added that all vehicles going over the posted speed limit will be photographed. Drivers and the inside of their vehicles will not be recorded.

For the first 30 days, speeding drivers will catch a break with only warnings in the mail. But after that grace period ends, fines will start at $50, escalate to $75 for the second violation, $100 for the third ticket and $100 fines for any additional tickets within 18 months of the first violation. Drivers will not be issued any points on their license.

This is the state’s first speed camera program on highway construction zones, enacted under a bill signed last year by Gov. Kathy Hochul and intended to protect workers in the field from work intrusions and car accidents.

Officials would not identify the exact locations of the cameras on Long Island or how many were already deployed. But DOT officials said work zones would be identified on a state website.

While a photo of purported areas being targeted made its way across social media, officials declined to confirm or deny the post. The cameras will roam to different zones as needed. Twenty will be deployed on state maintained highways, while 10 will be on the Thruway.

Karen Torres, 53, said the program will help prevent work zone accidents like the one that took her dad’s life in 2006. Her father, Patrick Mapleson, a DOT employee, was filling potholes in Eastport when he was struck by a speeding and distracted cement truck driver. Torres said she didn’t realize how dangerous construction jobs were until after that incident.

“These men or women put their lives on the line every day and I don't think people really understand that. They see them more as a nuisance,” Torres said, adding, “They’re really making the road safer for us.”

The mobile camera units will only be rolling when workers are on the ground, not 24-7, according to Stephen Canzoneri, a spokesperson for the DOT.   

Citations will be sent by mail to New York residents within two weeks of the violation. Tickets will be mailed within 45 days to out-of-state residents.

Unpaid fines may result in a hold on registration until fines are paid. Fines can be contested within 30 days after citations are received.

The state will use 60% of fines collected to help pay for work zone safety projects, while the other 40% will go to the system's vendor, Verra Mobility of Roslyn Heights, officials said. The images are sent to the vendor operating the cameras. Officials said the company was chosen through a bidding process.

Automated enforcement has been controversial on Long Island. When Nassau County launched a speed camera program near schools in 2014 it was repealed after public outcry and Suffolk County canceled its program. From September to November of that year, Nassau issued 400,000 tickets worth $24 million.

Jay Beeber, director of policy and research at the National Motorists Association, remains skeptical about the program.

“We are very much in favor of work zone safety and keeping workers safe," he said. "We feel that oftentimes, governments jump to enforcement first instead of using some other means to gain compliance from drivers,” he said, noting that speed feedback signs that flash a driver’s speed are effective at getting drivers to slow down.

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