Laws You Need to Know During Construction Season
Detours, traffic, crazy construction zones – what a headache. Doesn't it seem like it's almost impossible to get anywhere around Pittsburgh?
Construction zones are dangerous. In 2011 alone, the most recent data available from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), there were 1,812 traffic collisions in Pennsylvania work zones.
"One of the potential causes for accidents in construction zones is confusing signs," says Attorney Richard Rosenthal, a partner at our law firm, who formerly worked for the Pennsylvania Attorney General and defended PennDOT. "During this construction season you may see confusing messages or unclear signs – be careful, and stay alert."
Many drivers don't think twice about speeding in a work zone, because they don't recognize the safety risks and don't know the details of Pennsylvania's Work Zone Safety (WZS) Law. Breaking the law not only sacrifices safety, but it will cost you.
Work Zone Safety Laws for Posted Work Zones
- All drivers must travel with their headlights on in posted work zones, regardless of whether they are active. As you enter a work zone, turn on your headlights to activate the taillights. If you're pulled over for committing another traffic violation in a work zone and you don't have your headlights on, you will face an additional fine of $25.
- Extensive work zones (project costs of $300,000+) should have a speed-monitoring device – usually a sign that flashes your speed as you're entering a work zone – to remind you to slow down.
Work Zone Safety Law for Active Work Zones
- Active work zones mean there are workers on the construction site. Active work zones must tell drivers when they enter and leave a work zone, and a flashing light attached to the "Active Work Zone When Flashing" sign indicates an active work zone.
- If you're caught driving 11 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit in an active work zone, you will face a 15-day license suspension.
- If you're involved in a construction zone accident and you're found to have been driving at an unsafe speed, you will face a 15-day license suspension.
- Fines are doubled for committing certain traffic violations in an active work zone, including speeding, driving under the influence, and not obeying traffic laws – such as failing to stop at a stop sign on a merge ramp.
- If you're convicted of causing a fatal car accident in a work zone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will face up to 5 years in prison.
Violating Warning Traffic Signs
There is also a new state traffic law that became effective on September 6, 2012. The new law penalizes motorists who ignore "road closed" signs and other signs meant to alert people about potentially dangerous conditions. Drivers who are caught violating this law will face fines of up to $250 and receive two points on their license. If the violation results in the need for emergency responders to arrive at the scene, the fine will be anywhere from $250 to $500, and the driver will have to repay emergency response costs.
Sometimes It's Not the Driver's Fault
Hopefully reading these laws will remind drivers to be patient and stay alert while driving in work zones. Following the laws, driving defensively, and staying alert in work zones may just save your life.
Unfortunately, sometimes you drive safely and follow all the laws, and you still get in an accident. Sometimes it's because of a poorly designed construction zone. Confusing signage, construction barrels, and lane changes can be to blame. Watch our video for details, and be safe.