Indiana Senate advances license plate speed camera pilot despite pushback

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The Indiana Senate voted 31-17 Monday to would allow the Indiana Department of Transportation to use license plate cameras to enforce speed limits in highway work zones.

Republican state lawmakers were divided over the measure, however, with some arguing that such “Big Brother” technology amounts to government overreach and could lead to later legislation allowing for other types of camera surveillance.

House Bill 1015 would create a pilot program for speed cameras. The technology would ticket drivers going more than 11 mph over the speed limit in an active work zone. Only four cameras could be used statewide.

INDOT would also be required to enter into an agreement with state police to share information on the program.

“I’ve watched cars speed through 20, 30 mph over the speed limit, and you’re standing 10 feet away. Sometimes the only thing separating you is an orange barrel—or back in my day, orange cones. People die,” Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, said Monday before the Senate chamber. “I keep hearing stories—there’s a boogeyman somewhere out here about this bill. This bill has a great potential to save lives.”

The bill now returns to the House before a final send-off to the governor.

First a warning, then a ticket

Under current Indiana law, motorists who exceed the reduced speed limit in a highway work zone by as little as 1 mph can be stopped by police and fined $300 for a first violation. The fine increases to $500 for a second violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. A driver also faces the possibility of losing their license.

But if a speed camera is involved a driver would receive a warning for an initial work zone speed limit violation under the legislation. Violators would then face a $75 fine for a second offense and a $150 fine for a third offense and beyond.

Construction workers also have to be present under the speed camera pilot.

Some Republicans remain opposed

Bill author Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, has backed the bill in the House for several years. Previous attempts to get such legislation passed were unsuccessful, however.

That’s because the GOP-dominated supermajority has long resisted efforts to use camera technology for highway speed violations or passing of school buses. They’ve also been hesitant to enact policy around license plate readers used by law enforcement.

“I don’t know if I see a boogeyman, but I see government. And as Ronald Reagan once said, ‘I think government is the problem,’” Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, said Monday.

“I have no regard for anybody who’s going to go blow through a construction zone. If we want to save lives … then let’s hire some more Indiana State Police officers,” he continued. “Let’s park them in these construction zones, and let’s have them patrol the highways of Indiana more than they’re doing. Because right now, I think we could use more of that.”

Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, also had reservations about the bill, saying “we don’t need cameras on the highways to be distractions” to already preoccupied drivers. Sandlin, a former law enforcement officer, said he would prefer to see more state troopers assigned specifically to traffic enforcement, instead.

“I don’t think this will provide any significant reduction to accidents in the work zones because there are a lot of other issues that are going unaddressed, because we don’t have real eyes and ears out there — that we as taxpayers are paying for — policing those areas,” Sandlin said.

Others in the GOP caucus remained committed to the bill that they said would help protect construction workers.

“I invite any of you to go out on one of these sites and see how rough it is,” said Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo. “If not now, when are we going to do this? How many young lives have to be lost on our roads, trying to make it convenient for us to go to work, play, for travel? I think it’s high time.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, further pointed to rising worksite fatalities and injuries in Indiana. In 2019, the state recorded 15 deaths, 824 injuries and about 2,800 crashes in worksites, according to state and federal transportation data.

Last year, those numbers jumped to 31 fatalities, 1,426 injuries and more than 7,000 crashes in Indiana work zones.

“I, too, am a little leery of technology and where it’s taken us, but this is the reality we’re in now,” Ford said. “Technology is here.”

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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6 thoughts on “Indiana Senate advances license plate speed camera pilot despite pushback

  1. What a bunch of illogical nonsense. Leave to Freeman and Sandlin, those fine examples of Marion County GOP members, to come off like fools. (Little wonder the Marion County GOP gets demolished in elections these days.)

    The police already have plate readers that they use, tons… and no restrictions on those. But work zone cameras are a new problem?

    Government isn’t always the problem. Elected officials who aren’t smart is the problem.

  2. I’m no fan of speed cameras, and “this is just in work zones” does not make me any more sympathetic to their nonsense.

    Cameras do not make anyone safer, they just cause even more erratic driving as people slam on their brakes.

    Nobody will deny that certain roads and construction sites are dangerous… So, fix them, not worsen them! Barriers and road narrowing slows traffic, cameras and speed traps just make the road more dangerous.

  3. Drivers do not have any privacy rights in their vehicles, as numerous courts have consistently ruled. If cameras catch and penalize speeding drivers in work zones, amen. The one weak aspect of this legislation is the “warning” for the first offence, and pittance fines for subsequent offences. If safety is the goal, make the penalties high enough to discourage the speeders in the first place.

  4. When I was in Scotland a few years back, they had “speed cameras” on the interstate grade roads, but they weren’t what you’d expect. They had cameras over the road like you see at toll plaza’s or the IN/KY bridge, but they had them at intervals of maybe 5 miles. If your time between sets of cameras was above the faster than the speed limit would allow, then they would send you a ticket.

    With this system there was NO SPEEDING!

  5. It is virtually impossible to drive 45 mph through the construction traffic downtown on I-70. I try and do 7 over the speed limit and still almost sideswiped by drivers, often given the finger, not to mention the tailgaiting! Something has to give. I am very sympathetic to construction workers, especially since my neighbor’s son was killed in one. It was devastating and unnecessary for the driver to save 2 additional minutes to the destination. Please slow down in construction traffic! I’m for anything that works.

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