Speeders beware
Police say ticketing efforts in construction zone are justified

LAWRENCEVILLE - Rebecca Hollingsworth, a self-described very careful driver, skated by for the first 45 years of her life without a single speeding ticket.

But two weeks ago, Hollingsworth says, her flawless driving record endured its first ding.

"I got a ticket today," fumed the Lawrenceville resident. "I'm 45 and I've never had a speeding ticket in my life."

Hollingsworth was clocked speeding in a 35 mph zone on Ga. Highway 20 east of Lawrenceville that's posted as a construction site. The speed limit there has been lowered from the 45 mph Hollingsworth is accustomed to. And although she doesn't deny she was speeding - zooming enough to warrant a Sept. 6 court appearance, in fact - she feels police are ticketing drivers excessively in areas where no construction workers are on duty.

Construction zones, Hollingsworth worries, are becoming a new breed of speed traps.

"I took pictures of the whole entire work area - not the one work person or vehicle anywhere around there," Hollingsworth said. "Wherever I see men working on the side of the road - yes, I slow down. I don't want to hurt the poor things."

Lt. Philip Byers, a traffic supervisor with Lawrenceville Police Department, has heard similar grumbles from drivers ticketed near the Ga. Highway 20 construction project. In light of complaints, said Byers, officers have moved back from posted speed-limit signs to allow drivers more slow-down time.

The result?

Even more speeders, said Byers.

But Byers maintains his department has no special initiatives this summer to target speeders in construction zones. The frequency of tickets issued is only business as usual, he said.

"A lot of times when you get complaints for tickets, (drivers are) really not mad at the officer - they're mad at themselves for getting caught," Byers said.

On Ga. 20, Byers said officers are clocking motorists no less than 700 feet from signs that warn speeding fines will be doubled, which is compliant with state law, he said.

Byers could not quantify how many tickets have been issued in specific zones but said officers roam Lawrenceville "to areas where we know from past

history we've had a lot of speeding violations," he said.

"We're conforming to what the law says," Byers continued. "We're thinking about the safety of the motorist but also the safety of the construction workers. It's not just getting revenue - it's trying to protect people."

In terms of revenue, 60 percent of money gathered from speeding ticket fines is channeled to Gwinnett County's general fund. The other 40 percent goes to police agencies within Gwinnett County and a handful of state law initiatives, said Lisa Fowler, a Gwinnett County Recorder's Court supervisor.

Fines for speeding in construction zones are not necessarily doubled; they work on a graduated scale according to the zone's posted speed, Fowler said.

For instance, a motorist ticketed for driving between 41 and 60 mph in a construction zone will face the minimum fine - $140. Going 75 mph in the same area would cost a speeder $252. Any higher speed would require the driver to appear in court.

Fowler said, until recent legislation took effect July 1, all drivers ticketed for speeding in construction zones were scheduled a mandatory court appearance.

Cpl. Darren Moloney, a Gwinnett County Police Department spokesman, said officers will typically "work traffic" when not responding to specific calls. Construction zones across Gwinnett are part of day-to-day routes, he said.

"These construction workers, you've got them dying daily across Georgia," Moloney said. "I've lived here over 30 years, and I can't remember when construction was not going on."

With or without visible workers, construction zones are hotspots for accidents where drivers need to pay particular heed, Moloney said.

"It takes concentration just to pay attention to the road in front of you," he said. "Just because (drivers don't) see a human body, it doesn't mean you're not endangering somebody."