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(INDIANAPOLIS) –  You’ve heard those ads telling you to slow down in work zones. Legislators are discussing adding automatic cameras to catch you.

There are hefty fines for speeding in a work zone — 300 dollars for a first time, up to a thousand for repeat offenders, and up to five-thousand for reckless driving. But the fines can be hard to enforce because there’s no place to pull you over.

Contractors and unions are joining forces to urge legislators to solve that problem through automation. Five states, including Illinois, have authorized systems which use lasers to measure your speed. If you’re too far over the speed limit, a camera takes a picture of your license plate and police send you a ticket.

Indiana Constructors president Richard Hedgecock says in Maryland, seven-percent of drivers going through work zones were at least 12 miles above the speed limit when the speed-cam law was passed in 2010. Today, it’s down to one-percent. Hedgecock argues the cameras force people to pay attention to their surroundings, and slowing down is a natural byproduct.

For years, legislators have resisted automatic traffic enforcement measures like red-light cameras as an invasion of privacy. But they did pass a law this year allowing cameras on school buses to catch people who ignore the stop arm. Hedgecock says Pennsylvania, the most recent state to authorize the cameras, included several restrictions on the cameras: they’re only allowed to photograph the back of the car, there have to be at least two signs warning you the camera zone is coming, and a human police officer has to review the photos before issuing the ticket. But Hedgecock says he’d happily leave the details to legislators, as long as they take stronger action to reduce speeds.

INDOT isn’t directly endorsing the idea, but chief of staff Chris Kiefer says the agency would welcome anything that gets people to slow down. 

INDOT says there were nearly 900 crashes in Indiana work zones last year. 14 people were killed and more than 600 injured — about a fifth of the casualties were highway workers.

Legislators don’t begin the new session in earnest until January, but a study committee is reviewing the idea to give those discussions a head start.

(Photo: Jens Lambert/Thinkstock)