Signs will be posted alerting drivers about zones where speed limits are enforced by automated cameras under a new safety campaign launched by the state Department of Transportation.

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Local drivers, ready for your closeup?

As previously reported, a pilot program using cameras to monitor — and ticket — speeders will be deployed Monday, April 10, at three sites around the state by the Department of Transportation. 

It’s now been revealed that one of the “speed safety camera” installations will be in Westport, along the stretch of Interstate 95 being reconstructed between Westport and Norwalk.

The project is designed to cut down on the rising number of accidents in highway construction zones — one of which occurred in Westport just last week. A Bridgeport man, who State Police said was driving drunk, faces multiple charges after striking two vehicles in the construction zone April 4 and then fleeing the scene.

The new cameras, which run continuously, will issue tickets to drivers exceeding posted speed limits by 15 mph.

The DOT program, called “Know the Zone,” also is being rolled out Monday in the Route 8 corridor through the lower Naugatuck Valley and along Route 2 in the Hartford area.

Highway speed-limit campaign tightly controlled

The speed enforcement campaign, as approved by the General Assembly, is to be tightly controlled through its duration. 

No more than three of the DOT’s enforcement vehicles equipped with cameras will be deployed throughout the state at one time. The zones are currently restricted to limited-access highways, and signs will be posted to alert drivers that they are entering a zone with active speed cameras. Full details of the Know the Zone regulations are posted on the DOT website.

Ticketing penalties will be: a written warning but no fine for the first offense; a $75 fine for the second offense, and a $150 fine for the third and subsequent offenses.

“This is not that complicated. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t tweet and drive. Stop speeding,” Gov. Ned Lamont said at a recent press conference launching the campaign.

State officials, however, seem wary of drivers’ reaction — particularly, privacy concerns over the cameras — to stepped-up enforcement of speed limits.

Asked at the same press conference about the relative lack of traditional “speed traps” set up by state troopers, a State Police representative responded, “We don’t call them speed traps … We do motor vehicle enforcement.”

Initiative may expand “automated enforcement” to local streets

Although the Know the Zone campaign currently is restricted to limited-access highways, a broader effort to deploy “automated enforcement” by cameras focused on speeding and red-light violations on local roads is up for consideration in this year’s General Assembly session.

Bill No. 5917, which to date has received a favorable report from the legislature’s Transportation Committee, calls for implementation of road safety recommendations by the “Vision Zero Council.” The group is described on its website as “an interagency work group tasked with developing statewide policy to eliminate transportation-related fatalities and severe injuries involving pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, motorists and passengers.”

If the legislation is approved, it would grant municipalities the authority to install cameras that, by recording a driver’s license plate number, could issue penalties for exceeding the speed limit by 10 miles an hour or for running a red light.

An advocate for the proposed legislation, noting Connecticut’s traffic deaths rose to more than 380 last year, makes a full argument for the proposal in an opinion piece posted last week on the CTMirror website.

John Schwing, the Westport Journal consulting editor, has held senior editorial and writing posts at southwestern Connecticut media outlets for four decades. Learn more about us here.