Motorists around the state may see an increased police presence around highway work zones as part of an effort to increase safety.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) announced the increased presence of both state and local police on the same day the state Work Zone Safety Work Group released more than a dozen recommendations, which include increased fines for motorists to reduce crashes and fatalities.
“These recommendations, they’ll save lives,” Moore said. “And we have no time to spare in order to make sure that these recommendations are actually actionable. And it’s in that spirit that I’m proud to announce that we’ll begin implementing a few of these recommendations starting right now.”
In addition to an increased police presence, Moore ordered the State Highway Administration to spend $500,000 on work zone safety commercials. He said the state will also work with the Maryland State Department of Education to implement a similar campaign in public schools.
“Now, everything that I just mentioned is just about changing culture. That doesn’t happen overnight,” said Moore. “And I also know this changing culture is also going to require changes of Maryland drivers.”
The 15 recommendations issued will require some budgetary, regulatory, and legislative changes.
Included in those is a recommendation to increase fines for violations in work zones and increase use of speed cameras.
Currently, the state issues $40 tickets with no points to motorists who exceed the posted speed limit by 12 mph or more.
Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D), a transportation engineer who chaired the work group, said the fines are the lowest in the nation.
“In Texas, speeding in work zones can be up to $1,000,” Miller said.
The recommendations do not include new fine levels.
Currently there are about 300 work zones around the state. Moore declined to say how many cameras would be used in a ramped-up enforcement effort.
The increased penalties will require legislative approval. Money generated by tickets would be used for road safety programs.
Moore said he will bring the recommendation to the General Assembly next year as part of his legislative agenda.
Other recommendations included increased education and public awareness campaigns, a work zone safety mascot, buffer lanes and increased work zone inspections.
Maryland is on pace to record upwards of 600 roadway deaths this year. It’s a mark not reached in the state in nearly 20 years.
“We know it’s the same causes of crashes and fatalities year after year,” said Christine Nizer, administrator at the Maryland Vehicle Administration.
“There was a time when it was common, maybe wave as a driver let you in, thank them for their courtesy,” Nizer said. “Unfortunately, we don’t see that. We see more aggression, we see more speed. We see that dangerous behavior, and that includes relating to our pedestrians and certainly our work zone workers. We hope that we’ve hit the pinnacle…and that all of us can commit to that culture of safety and go back to being respectful to one another.”
Included in this year’s soaring fatality figure is a crash in western Baltimore County along I-695 that killed six workers, including a father and son.
Maryland’s Occupational Safety and Health Office cited the State Highway Administration with a “serious violation” related to the fatal crash.
The report noted a failure to place the signs near the work zone exposed workers to being struck by passing vehicles.
The work zone panel was created following that crash.
This article was originally published on MarylandMatters.org and is republished with permission.