NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Firefighters’ boot campaign down again; Legislature considering work-zone cameras

As we expected, Local 124 of the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters fell short in their annual Fill the Boot campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the second straight year since being prohibited from soliciting donations on major thoroughfares and median strips.

In an Aug. 23 editorial, News-Sentinel.com said we understood the concerns for the safety of our firefighters and others in soliciting public donations during the boot campaign but stated that eliminating the way it’s been done for so long was an unnecessary restriction, and that we should give more credit to our public safety veterans to be able to conduct boot campaign solicitations safely.

Last year, when the firefighters had to limit their boot campaign to businesses and shopping center parking lots, they ended up raising about $37,000 — only a third of the total from 2017, which was $107,554. So this year, City Council passed a resolution allowing firefighters to resume their previous collection methods – as long as they had the city administration’s approval, which they didn’t get.

Fire Chief Eric Lahey would not allow his firefighters to do so while on duty and restricted those collections to parking lots and inside businesses. Thus, the more obscure positioning of firefighters collecting donations resulted in $35,673 this year — even worse than 2018.

Next year, however, Fort Wayne Fire Capt./Inspector and union President Jeremy Bush told The Journal Gazette, firefighters will be back on the streets. But the ones doing so will be off duty, which means they won’t be restricted by the city. Firefighters who wish to participate while on duty will continue to follow the new rules.

What’s more, according to Bush, the donation drive will grow from three days to six.

So next year, we hope they can expect to increase those donations to something closer to where they left off in 2017.

Push is on for work-zone cameras

In an editorial on Sept. 4, we praised the fact that Indiana has taken recent steps to help prevent drivers from passing school buses with stop-arms extended. And we wrote about the growing problem of drivers running red lights, suggesting that perhaps the state should consider red light cameras at intersections.

Now there is a move by some Indiana lawmakers to install cameras in work zones along state highways to record speeding cars. Members of the Legislature’s Interim Study Committee on Transportation advanced a plan Wednesday to permit using the traffic cameras, The Northwest Indiana Times reported.

A statewide construction trade group, Indiana Constructors Inc., presented the committee with records that show work zone crashes in Indiana jumped from 2,878 in 2013 to 6,370 in 2017.

Certainly, we’ve all noticed Indiana has more work zones than usual since increases in fuel taxes and vehicle dues passed by the General Assembly in 2017 provided the funds to pay for such infrastructure projects. But it’s also been clear that motorists seem to be speeding and driving more recklessly due to texting and other distractions. The danger in driving that way in construction zones is not only to the motorists, but to the construction workers.

“We want to get the work done, but we want to do it safely,” ICI board chairman Dan Brown told the Times.

The newspaper reported that the 2011 Indiana Work Zone Safety Law levies fines for speeding in a work zone at $300 for a first violation, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third offense within three years. A driver who injures or kills a construction worker faces up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

But it’s been difficult for state police to enforce the law because work zones usually have little space for a patrol car to be stationed or even to pull over a speeding driver.

The panel is to decide this month whether to officially recommend that the Legislature consider making the state the sixth in the nation with work zone speed cameras.

We think it’s a worthy project so speeding drivers can be photographed and fined, just like those who run red lights would be if we had cameras at stoplights.