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Motorists Urged to Know Pennsylvania's Work Zone Law and Avoid Fines and Accidents

PITTSBURGH, PA—Detours, traffic, crazy construction zones – what a headache. Doesn't it seem like it's almost impossible to get anywhere around Pittsburgh and the region?

Not only do they cause hassles, but 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.

"Sometimes accidents are caused by driver error and breaking the safety laws. Other times, poorly designed or maintained construction zones are to blame," says Attorney Richard Rosenthal, managing partner of Edgar Snyder & Associates, a law firm that helps victims injured in construction zones. "I've handled numerous cases against construction companies that work with PennDot as well as city and local municipalities. Construction zones placed with confusing signs, missing construction barrels, poor lighting, or little warning to change lanes can result in serious injuries or even deaths. It's critical to stay alert, drive defensively and heed the law."

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 in fines, points on your driving record and even possibly jail time.

Work Zone Safety Law – Know Your Responsibilities

There are several requirements under the Work Zone Safety Law, also known as the WZS Law. All drivers must travel with their headlights on in all posted work zones, regardless of whether the zone is active. Work zone construction signs can pose various distractions for drivers in all types of road conditions, and headlights increase visibility. Drivers pulled over for another traffic violation face an additional fine of $25 if they were driving in a work zone without their headlights.

Additionally, extensive road construction (project costs of $300,000+) areas will have a speed-monitoring device to alert drivers of their speed as they enter a work zone. Speed is a top contributor of accidents – especially in work zones.

Active work zones must have a sign alerting drivers when they enter and leave the area. Typically, an "Active Work Zone When Flashing" sign indicates an active work zone to motorists, which means workers are present on the construction site. Active work zones have stiffer penalties for drivers who commit violations:

  • Motorists caught driving 11 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit in an active work zone will face a 15-day license suspension.
  • Motorists who are involved in a traffic accident in an active work zone and are found to have been driving at an unsafe speed will face a 15-day license suspension.
  • Fines for certain traffic violations are doubled in active work zones – including speeding, driving under the influence and not obeying traffic laws.
  • Drivers convicted of causing a fatal collision while under the influence of alcohol or drugs face up to five years in prison.

Stiffer Penalties for Violating Warning Traffic Signs

A new state traffic law became effective on September 6, 2012, which officials hope will keep drivers and emergency responders safe. The new law penalizes motorists who ignore "road closed" signs and other signs meant to alert people about potentially dangerous conditions. Drivers caught will face fines of up to $250 and receive two points on their license. If, however, the violation causes emergency responders to arrive at the scene, the fine will be anywhere from $250 to $500, and the violator will have to repay the cost of staging the emergency response.

Be Alert

Road construction season is in full swing, and media have already reported several serious collisions in work zones. Follow the laws, drive defensively and stay alert in work zones to avoid accidents, fines and potentially losing your license.

Edgar Snyder & Associates is a plaintiff's personal injury law firm representing people hurt in all types of accidents. Office locations include Pittsburgh, Altoona, Ebensburg, Erie and Johnstown, Pa. For more information, visit www.edgarsnyder.com.

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