Editorials

Fines should help keep workers safe

Road construction on I-77 near Killian road. in Columbia. A new law strengthens penalties for speeding, reckless driving in highway work zones. 6/14/17
Road construction on I-77 near Killian road. in Columbia. A new law strengthens penalties for speeding, reckless driving in highway work zones. 6/14/17 tdominick@thestate.com

The S.C. Legislature finally passed a bill to help fund needed repairs to state roads. That will mean more S.C. Department of Transportation workers involved in projects along the state’s highways – and a greater possibility of workers being injured or killed.

To help deter accidents, lawmakers also passed a bill increasing the fines for disobeying work zone rules or, worse, injuring workers. We hope the fines will help motorists focus on the fact that worker safety is a higher priority than getting to their destinations a little more quickly.

Over the DOT’s 100-year history, 39 road workers have been killed while working on the state’s roads. In March, two DOT employees were killed and a third injured in a hit-and-run collision in Aiken County.

The law passed during the recent legislative session creates a new traffic violation of “endangering a highway worker” by traveling outside of a designated lane or failing to obey traffic signs or signals in a highway work zone. And the fines for breaking the law will be stiff.

Even if no workers are physically injured, fines for violating the law can range from $500 to $1,000. Fines for injuring a worker range from $1,000 to $2,000, and from $2,000 to $5,000 for causing great bodily injury.

And the fines are in addition to other charges that may be brought, such as driving under the influence, reckless driving and vehicular homicide.

South Carolina residents routinely have named repairs of the state’s crumbling roads as one of their highest priorities for legislative action. Now that road projects are about to gear up to meet that demand, drivers owe it to workers to obey rules designed to keep them safe.

As the DOT motto states: “Let ’Em Work, Let ’Em Live.”

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