More at risk in road work than repairs

If your idea of looking for adventure is to head out on the highway this summer, take it slow.

Amid West Virginia’s Roads to Prosperity and secondary road repair campaigns there will be roadwork. And there will be work zones where lots of signs, flashing lights and highway workers should slow you down. Our newspaper never holds back about the state Division of Highways’ shortcomings regarding maintenance and repairs of our roads.

However, every motorist should show the utmost respect for the men and women working alongside our highways and roads. The best way to do that is for motorists to slow down and obey caution signs about roadwork. Yet, far too many put their own lives and the lives of those on the job at risk. In West Virginia, laws specially provide enhanced, but still inadequate, penalties for speeding in work zones — up to $200 in fines or 20 days in jail, or both. And no, road workers don’t even need to be present, though signs do. In late October 2017, the Department of Transportation unveiled a statue that paid tribute to DOH workers who have died in the line of duty.

Then, nearly 50 names of men and women who have died in work safety zones since the creation of the state Road Commission in 1921 were listed. Almost a century later these tragedies still happen; many due to speeding, distracted driving or impaired driving. The DOH Fallen Worker Memorial — created by a Morgantown sculptor — outside the Interstate 77 Welcome Center emphasizes safety in work zones West Virginia also has another law, that too often is not obeyed: The “Move Over Law.” That law requires that drivers — if it’s safe to do so — move a lane away from any law enforcement or emergency vehicle on the side of the road.

If unable to switch lanes motorists should at least slow down and approach cautiously. The list of emergency vehicles that fall under the law’s protection include tow trucks, utility vehicles, etc. It also extends to highway workers in temporary work zones. Convicted violators are guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

Though road work was suspended during the recent Memorial Day weekend in many parts of the state, it’s full speed ahead now. No, not for the thousands of motorists driving through work zones or passing by emergency personnel. But for highway workers manning hundreds of road projects. The same people that memorial off I-77 honors and sadly leaves room for more of their names to be added That statue and these statutes make clear what’s at stake for people whose work — which is no adventure — puts them at terrible risk on the road.