Editorial: Ensure construction safety, but be fair
It’s difficult to drive anywhere on Long Island without facing speeding and aggressive drivers. We welcome measures to curtail such behavior, including the recent state Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program, where speed cameras are installed in work zones on highways and parkways.
Construction workers have the right to feel and be safe on the job. We applaud the state for taking action to grant them this right. We further welcome measures the state has taken to try to ensure the program is a fair one, such as the initial 30-day warning period prior to issuing fines.
After the program was announced, the overwhelming response from the public was one of outrage and aggravation. We reject the notion that this is due to people wanting to avoid responsibility. Rather, this is a symptom of the fundamental distrust the average constituent has in their government. Several aspects of the program, and its rollout, give the public good reason to question the state’s motivation for implementing it in the first place.
For instance, a list of the supposed locations of speed cameras has been heavily circulating on social media. However, when several news outlets asked the state to confirm, they declined. It wasn’t until early this week that details were released. This lack of transparency is a prime example of the perception the public has of the program.
The state website indicates that 30 cameras “will be moved around to work zones throughout the state.” When this does occur, we hope the public will be informed, as the state has promised.
Further, the sporadic location of cameras poses the question of why the cameras will not be instituted in all work zones, if the state is so concerned about safety. We would encourage the state to provide more information to the public, in terms of locations of the cameras, as well as remain equitable in terms of where they place cameras. We wouldn’t want to see cameras be solely allocated to low-income areas, affluent areas or middle-class areas.
Other components of the program, such as issuing violations for as little as 10 miles an hour over the speed limit as per state law, are reasons for further distrust, and why the average member of the public views this as a money grab.
Such little wiggle room for drivers also points to a lack of empathy from the state for the average Long Islander. We do not condone speeding in work zones, but someone going as little as 10 miles over the speed limit, which drivers sometimes do, could be a parent trying to get to work to pay the bills after getting their children on the bus, a health care worker trying to get to the hospital, or someone simply preoccupied by the stresses of their day who has overlooked their speed.
The state has assured the public that signs will be displayed prior to entering a speed zone. We truly hope this remains the case, so a person is not surprised if a ticket is received.
Lastly, Newsday reported that 60% of fines will pay for work zone projects, and 40% will go to the vendor. This seems like a high take for the corporation involved and a poor use of the public’s money.
Ultimately, we hope the public is considerate of other drivers, as well as road workers, and we hope the state is considerate of the public in implementing this program.