Driver Beware - Workers Present!
by Julie Alston, Municipal Judge -
City of Huntington and City of Zavalla
Have you noticed all the road construction around us lately? Construction is underway on Highway 69, Highway 59, and in other areas in Angelina County. Every week I drive between Huntington, Diboll, Zavalla, and Lufkin, so I see lots of men and women working in their bright orange vests on the side of the road. The workers in a real danger zone are the ones who stand, facing oncoming traffic, with stop signs and signs telling us to slow down. These workers are faced with irritable motorists who are in a hurry, those glued to their cell phones, and some with actual road rage as they sit stuck in traffic. All the while, these workers are standing in the blazing sun trying to direct people to a safe path.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), in 2014 Texas had over twice as many fatalities of workers in construction zones than any other state. And these statistics went up 9% in 2017.
Traffic accidents in general occur more often in construction zones. The most common are rear-end collisions, but other kinds of accidents also happen, and drivers and passengers are also at risk for injury or death when driving in construction zones. Even when road signs are clearly posted about construction and slower speed limits, people still speed, stay on their cell phones, and there are always some drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
There is also the big effect on your pocketbook if you are speeding in a construction zone when workers are present. The maximum fine for speeding is $200.00 in Texas, higher for some other violations. And the fine amounts are doubled if workers are present in a construction zone. In addition to the fine amounts, the State also assesses court costs for every violation, usually around $100.00, which is added to the fine. For example, in this Municipal Court, the usual fine amount for speeding 15-19 miles per hour over the posted limit is $87.90, plus State court costs ($192.00 total). If in a school zone, the fine amount is $175.80, plus court costs and an additional $25.00 child safety fee. If workers are present in a construction zone, the fine amount would be $175.80, plus $104.10 court costs (total $279.90). If a school zone is located within the construction zone and workers are present, the fine amount would be $351.60, plus court costs of $129.10 (total $480.70).
From this example, a regular speeding ticket costing $192.00 could be increased to almost $500.00 just because you are speeding in a construction zone with workers present. The kicker is that you are not eligible for defensive driving and you are not eligible for “deferred disposition” to prevent this from appearing on your driving record.
We may be inconvenienced now because of the road construction around us, but this is only a temporary condition. So be cautious in any road construction area, do not exceed the posted speed limit, pay attention to the drivers in front of you in case of sudden stops, watch all flaggers and road employees closely and follow their instructions, and don’t be distracted by your cell phone causing you to place you and innocent road workers in harm’s way.