Work Zone Safety Lawyer
During April, 2017, we mentioned the tragic incident in which two South Carolina DOT workers died in a hit-and-run accident while working in Aiken County. A third worker was also injured in the same crash. The driver that authorities believe was responsible for the deaths and injuries has been charged.
Partly because of the deaths of SCDOT workers Robert Clark and Anthony Redmond, Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill into law during May, 2017, that increased penalties for driving negligently or recklessly in work zones across South Carolina.
Work Zone Crashes and You
Did you realize that one-fourth of work zone fatalities involve alcohol, and that 28 percent involve speeding? Too often, people do not think about the lives of workers when passing through a work zone, and yet hundreds die every year. In 2015, there were 700 fatalities caused by work zone crashes. South Carolina had two fatalities in 2015, but in 2014, nine work zone fatalities occurred in our state.
The New Work Zone Penalties in SC
You would be considered guilty of endangering a road worker or highway worker if you commit the following acts:
- Drive around or through a work zone in a lane that’s not clearly marked for use by vehicles.
- Fail to obey any device intended to control traffic in a work zone, except in cases of emergency, when necessary to avoid an obstacle, or when attempting to protect another person’s health and safety.
Under the new law, speeding in a work zone can mean a fine of up to $1,000, with a minimum fine of $500. If a worker is hit and injured, the fine automatically increases to $2,000, with a minimum fine of $1,000. If the worker suffers “great bodily injury,” the fine parameters increase to a maximum of $5,000 and a minimum of $2,000.
The number of points that your license can be assessed has also increased. Speeding in a work zone translates into 2 points, unless a worker is injured, in which case the points jump to 4. If the work zone worker suffers “great bodily injury,” 6 points will be added to the license of the driver. In SC, your license is suspended when your record reaches 12 points.
The law went into effect immediately upon signing by the governor.
Response to the New Law
Some family members of those who work for SCDOT are happy to see the increased penalties, but are understandably sad that it took two deaths to focus attention on the dangers for workers in such zones. One family member, Carla Rentschler, commented, “I don’t think it should’ve taken this for [the law] to pass. I think it should‘ve been passed a long time ago. They’re putting their lives in danger for us. So many families end up losing their fathers, their dads, uncles and grandfathers.”
We hope that it does not take greater financial penalties to encourage you to drive with care around the workers on our roads. If you are concerned about encountering work zones while you are driving, perhaps during a summer road trip outside our state, the Federal Highway Administration has an interactive map with information regarding traffic and road closures that you can check.