The weather is clearing up, which, in Pittsburgh, means that road maintenance is and will continue to be upon us. From now until the snow flies again in November, orange barrels and construction equipment will be taking up space on our streets and highways.
That also means there will be flaggers and other construction workers toiling near to where cars and trucks are whizzing by, often a mere foot or two away.
That all said, the state Department of Motor Vehicles has designated this week as Work Zone Safety Awareness week – and your friendly Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, who, along with his associates, handles a ton of traffic ticket cases, wanted to make sure you knew about it.
Here’s why: There are specific and steepened penalties for those who disobey traffic laws in active work zones in Pennsylvania, and a zero tolerance policy for speeding, aggressive driving, and tailgating.
For example, if you blow through a work zone going 11 miles faster than the posted speed limit, or you’re involved in a crash you could be charged with failing to drive at a safe speed and automatically lose your license for 15 days if convicted.
And there’s more! If you’re caught speeding by as little as one mile per hour above the posted limit, or driving under the influence in an active work zone, the fines are doubled.
And, if you are convicted of homicide by vehicle for a crash in an active work zone? The law provides for as many as five years of additional jail time to go along with the $10,000 fine and year-long license suspension. Even causing a simple injury in such a crash is expensive for the driver: six months of license suspension and fines of up to $5,000.
Also, don’t forget about turning on your headlights in a work zone! The fine for failure to do that is $25.
Don’t think it’s enforced? Wrong! I’ve represented folks who’ve been cited, and according to PennDOT, so have a bunch of other Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers – because in 2013, 472 license suspensions were doled out for work-zone violations.
Why are the penalties for speeding in a work zone so harsh? Because more than 30 Pennsylvania Turnpike workers have lost their lives on the job over the years, all due to speeding or distracted drivers intruding into their workspace. Safety for highway construction workers is and has been a top priority for Pennsylvania.
In addition to the workers who have been killed were drivers and passengers in the vehicles that caused the crashes.
The problem is not limited to Pennsylvania, of course. Work Zone Safety Week is celebrated nationwide, including in New York, Ohio, and Maryland.
The workers do their part—they put bright orange and white barrels around their work area and post a lowered speed limit, sometimes with a new metal sign but often with a lighted one. They have big signs at the beginning and end of every work zone, letting you know it’s there. They wear brightly-colored vests so drivers can see them. They pay attention to their work areas.
The problem comes in when drivers are speeding, or changing the radio channel, or talking on the phone, or even trying to text. You’ve heard over and over that distracted driving is dangerous. Add to that the smaller size of the roadway due to lane restrictions, and it becomes deadly. It only takes a split-second of glancing at your cell phone in a construction zone to cause you to plow through a barrel and hurt or kill a worker.
So be careful out there! Watch your speed, watch for workers – and if you get into a jam, call me. My associates and I can be reached at (412) 612-2210 or (412) 612-2210. You can also contact us online. Someone is available 24/7 to take your call.