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OLYMPIA – Sen. Marko Liias’s (D-Everett) bipartisan legislation to protect workers on Washington’s highways was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday.  

Senate Bill 5272, which received unanimous support in both the Senate and House of Representatives, increases worker safety by authorizing the use of speed safety cameras in state highway work zones.  

The need for this legislation comes as Washington sees an uptick in traffic collisions and fatalities, including in work zones. Data from the Washington State Department of Transportation show there were 283 minor injury crashes, 28 serious injury crashes and five fatal crashes in work zones in 2021 alone.    

“Folks working on our state highways deserve to do so with the peace of mind that they will end their shift by going home to their families and loved ones,” Liias said. “These workers are acting every day to ensure our highways are safe for commuters, and we have a duty to keep them safe as well.”

“In recent years, we’ve seen too many injuries and even fatalities in our highway work zones,” said 14th District Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee. “Speeding and distracted driving are the main causes of these tragic events. Placing speed cameras in our work zones can be an effective way to deter drivers from causing a serious accident.”

WSDOT Worker Memorial and bill signing ceremony at the WSDOT headquarters in Olympia, WA, April 4, 2023.

Speed safety cameras are a known deterrent for speeding drivers and help enforce speed limits, which in turn protect highway workers.

On behalf of WSDOT, I would like to extend my gratitude to Gov. Inslee and our legislative, state and industry partners for doing their part to keep our people and the traveling public safe,” Sec. Roger Millar said. “This bill was of particular importance to us as WSDOT has seen a shift in traffic patterns and driver behavior, with traffic volumes outside of general commuting hours decreasing, reducing congestion and leading to an increase in speeding on our highways. Seeing the bill signed today felt especially meaningful because it is also our day of remembrance for those WSDOT workers that have died on the job. It’s these kinds of actions that help them go home safe.”

“Our workers are out on highways with just hard hats and safety vests for protection, and every day we hear about more folks that had near misses on the job,” said Billy Wallace with the Washington and Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers. “In the last two years, we have already lost four of our members and had 28 serious injuries in state highway work zones. We need all the help we can get to make sure our folks are safe, and these cameras have proven to be effective at reducing speeding in work zones across the country. I’m grateful to Sens. King and Liias for working with us on this important bill to protect our workers.”

Speed safety cameras are already in use in Washington school zones and railroad crossings. Revenue generated that exceeds the cost of operations for these cameras must be used for traffic safety education efforts.  

SB 5272 will go into effect in July 2024.