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Undercover operation nabs work zone speeders

By Pohla Smith
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

To a motorist passing at 60 or 65 mph – and there were a lot of them – Robin Mungo probably looked like a PennDOT worker warming up in a yellow pickup truck at the Settler's Cabin construction project on the Parkway West in Robinson.

Motorists going the posted speed limit of 45 mph, however, might have noticed that, despite her jeans and hard hat, Mungo was pointing a large object at the traffic.

It was a radar gun, and Mungo, a state trooper, was working undercover as a PennDOT employee, helping two other troopers in marked cars try to teach motorists to obey the new and stricter work zone laws that went into effect last June 23.

Those laws include an automatic 15-day license suspension for anyone caught going 11 mph or more over the posted speed limit in a construction area. Fines for some other traffic violations also are doubled in work areas.

Traffic made it difficult for Mungo to get a clear shot at speeding vehicles. Some sped in the cover of tractor-trailers – a favorite trick of cabbies, Mungo said. Still, in the first hour of the three-hour Operation Yellow Jacket, Mungo radioed the description of four speeding vehicles to her colleagues in chase cars, who then stopped and ticketed the motorists.
One car was going 61 mph, two were traveling at 63 mph and one was clocked at 66 mph.

At the end of the sting, the troopers had cited 11 motorists for going more than 60 mph through the construction zone.

Fines are doubled for such violations as speeding, driving under the influence and failure to obey traffic devices when they take place in active work zones. There also is a secondary penalty of $25 for driving without headlights, but drivers pay that only if they are convicted of another violation of the vehicle code.

Five of the 11 cited for speeding also were cited for not using their headlights.

Since the new zone laws were passed last June through this past March 19, PennDOT's Bureau of Motor Vehicles processed 478 suspensions statewide for motorists caught driving 11 mph or more over the speed limit.

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