Reportedly, 722 people die every year in car accidents in construction zones. Speeding is the main cause of accidental deaths in construction zones and drivers are the ones who are more likely to be injured or killed in the accidents that result. However, all too often, highway workers are the victims. Keep in mind that using a cell phone, or failing to yield the right of way is also a violation of the law in construction zones. 

Construction zones are any place on a highway or other roadway where workers are engaged in construction projects. They might be replacing old water pipes, rebuilding a bridge or paving a part of the highway. The nature of the work is not as important as the need to slow down to provide a safe environment for the workers.  

There are speeding in construction zone laws which address the types of  warnings and speeding regulations that can protect both highway workers and motorists. Ultimately, it is up to drivers, however, to respect the laws and slow down in construction zones, because accidents are almost always the fault of one or more drivers.

What Is the Speed Limit Around a Construction Zone?

On highways, where regular speed limits are higher, the average speed in a work zone is between 45 mph and 55 mph. The reason for reducing speeds in a work zone is to give drivers and workers enough time to react to dangerous situations. Signs indicating reduced speed are often posted ahead of construction zones also.

Off the highway, the roads may be under state or local control, and speeds of 20 miles per hour or less might be required in construction zones. These zones can become very congested with traffic, so it is vital that drivers slow down and pay careful attention.  The exact speed limits may vary from state to state and from city to city. There is no one uniform speed limit for construction zones. A person would be well advised to look for and observe posted speed limits. And if a person notices workers on or near the roadway, slow down.

In many states, it is a requirement that there are signs posting the reduced speed zone. It is important to know the local laws of the state in which a person lives so they can fully comply with all regulations. Failure to comply with all traffic regulations can get expensive.

What Are the Penalties for Speeding in Construction Zones?

The law varies from state to state. Some states enhance the penalty for speeding in a work zone only if there are signs posted warning drivers of the work zone and there are workers present in the zone. In other states, the fine for speeding in a work zone is enhanced whether there are signs or not and even if workers are not present in the work zone at the time of the offense. 

For example, in the state of Illinois, the speed limit in a construction zone is 45 mph. If a driver speeds in a construction zone, they are fined $375 and can be ordered to appear in court. The penalties get much steeper for subsequent offenses. For example, for a second offense, the fine goes up to $1,000 and a person will have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days.

If a person pays the ticket, it is treated as an admission of guilt and the person is convicted of a crime that goes on their driving record. They are assessed points, which raises a person’s car insurance premiums. If a person has too many points on their driving record, their license can be suspended.

In Minnesota certain factors have to be present if a person is going to be charged with speeding in a construction zone. The three factors are as follows:

  • A person must be driving over the posted speed limit;
  • Construction signs announcing the work zone must be present;
  • Workers must be present in the construction zone.

If these three factors are present, a person can be ticketed for speeding in a construction zone. The fine for speeding in a construction zone is double the original fine amount. So if the original ticket is $189, the fine in a construction zone is $378. Minnesota law says that any fine for speeding in a work zone must be at least $300. If there are other violations, such as texting  while driving, the fines can add up.

In Maryland, there are increased penalties for speeding violations in work zones, known as “Work Zone Enhancements”. Penalties are increased even if workers are not present in the work zone at the time of the violation as long as road work signs are posted. The fine is $1,000.

Can You Take Defensive Driving For Speeding In A Construction Zone?

In some states the law allows a person cited for violating traffic laws to complete a driver improvement course in order to reduce points that might be added to their record for the violation.

In North Carolina, for example, a person must submit their request to reduce points by taking a driver improvement course to an administrative hearings officer, who may allow the person to take an online driver safety class to reduce points for speeding in a construction zone. Other states have similar systems for avoiding points for traffic violations.

What are Some Other Laws Regulating Behavior in Construction Zones?

Following safe driving practices can prevent traffic violations in a construction zone. Unfortunately, many drivers do not pay attention or speed wilfully. There are steps a driver can take to avoid violations and improve safety in a construction zone as follows:

  • Avoid braking suddenly: A person should pay attention so they know when to reduce their speed. This gives the driver behind them time to slow down also. If a person pays close attention, they should have enough warning to reduce their speed slowly; 
  • Avoid changing lanes suddenly: Do not try to get ahead of a line of stopped cars by staying in a lane that is closing; it creates the risk of an accident; also use a turn signal to signal lane changes;
  • Obey the speed limit;
  • Drive so as to move with the flow of traffic: Do not try to beat the flow of traffic; it only makes driving more risky;
  • Do not use a cell phone while driving: Distracted driving creates a risk of accidents, and in most states it is against the law.

If a driver follows these basic rules, it can go a long way toward making their driving safer. In addition, they will avoid fines, license suspension and increased insurance costs. 

Reportedly, one single speeding violation on a person’s driving record can increase their car insurance premiums by 20%, and that is true in every state.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Speeding Citation?

If you have been ticketed for speeding in a construction zone, you should consult an experienced criminal lawyer. A criminal lawyer will know which law applies in the location where you were ticketed, whether state or local. A criminal lawyer will know the technicalities of the construction zone speeding law, such as whether signs must be posted warning of the zone or whether workers must be present.

There are unexpected technicalities in this area of the law and an experienced criminal lawyer will know what they are and provide you with a defense. You are most likely to get the best possible outcome in your case if you have an experienced criminal lawyer representing your interests.