Think twice before speeding through a construction site or else be prepared to pay twice as much for the traffic ticket – not to mention a sharp increase in your auto insurance premiums.
Almost every state has laws that double penalties for traffic offenses committed in a work zone, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Work zone” signifies detours, construction equipment and shut-down lanes.
But even with barriers and orange cones clearly marking work zones, accidents still are fairly common. In 2009 alone, nearly 29,000 people were injured in work-zone crashes.
Pay attention or pay the fine
Workers on construction sites concentrate on the tasks at hand and may not have time to watch for rogue cars on the road, says Randy Reep, a defense attorney in Florida. Injury or death could result if drivers don't abide by the laws.
In Florida, you can expect to pay double the cost of regular speeding ticket if you're caught speeding in a construction zone, says Kevin Alsup, vice president of insurance at Foundation Financial Group in Florida. Nevada, New York and South Carolina include jail time as punishment for speeding in a construction zone.
Paying the penalty
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia double fines for various traffic offenses committed within a work zone. However, simply committing a traffic violation in a work zone doesn’t automatically mean that you have to pay an increased fine.
In 24 states and D.C., workers actually must be in a construction zone for the stepped-up penalties to take effect. "If the worker is not there, he or she is not at risk of being injured, so the fine is not increased during those times," Reep says.
Whether workers are present or not, 40 states and D.C. require posted signs warning drivers of increased penalties. If you get into an accident but no signs were put up, the fine would not double, Alsup says.
Keep in mind that six states – Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky and Washington – boost fines in traffic zones even if workers or signs aren't present.
Paying the premium
While fines normally are higher in work zones, a crash inside a work zone would have the same effect on your car insurance as one outside a work zone, Alsup says.
One accident typically raises your premium by 15 percent, but this varies among insurers and states, says Kevin Lynch, assistant professor of insurance at The American College in Pennsylvania.
By the way, a higher fine accompanies a traffic violation inside a work zone, but the number of points that go on your driving record won't be higher, according to Lynch.
By the numbers
The Federal Highway Administration says fatal crashes in work zones on U.S. roads dropped from 716 in 2008 to 667 in 2009. Texas, Florida, and California ranked as the three states with the most traffic deaths in work zones.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 101 worker deaths happened in work zones in 2008, 116 in 2009 and 103 in 2010. Texas and Florida ranked first and second in this category as well, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois and Georgia.