Highway construction and maintenance zones in Louisiana are all too common. Unfortunately, these zones present many dangers for both workers and drivers. Lawmakers in the state have recognized these dangers and put laws in place that seek to limit potential injuries and accidents that occur in these zones.
However, it can often be difficult to determine what, exactly, a construction or maintenance highway zone is. This difficulty can lead to increased fines and penalties for drivers in the state.
This article sheds some light on what the state considers to be a construction or maintenance zone, and discusses some of the penalties drivers may face for violating traffic laws in these zones. Although fines may be hefty for violations in construction zones, an experienced and qualified attorney can help you navigate these complex laws and ensure you are not stuck paying significant fines that may otherwise be avoided.
What is a Work Zone?
According to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), construction and maintenance zones are actually bundled together into what the state calls a “work zone”. DOTD defines a work zone in the following manner:
“A work zone is an area of a highway with construction, maintenance, or utility work activities. work zone is typically marked by temporary traffic control (TTC) devices consisting of signs, channelizing devices, barriers, pavement markings, and/or work vehicles. A work zone extends from the first warning sign or high-intensity rotating, flashing, oscillating, or strobe lights on a vehicle to the END ROAD WORK sign or the last TTC device.”
Although this definition is fairly broad, one element that most will notice is absent is that of any worker being present at the area. However, the Louisiana state statute addresses this concern. Under section 32:57 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes, operators of a motor vehicle are subject to increased penalties:
“. . . on the portion of a highway which is under active construction and construction workers are on site, or which is in the process of being repaired and construction workers are on site.”
Drivers should be aware that although road workers may not be visible or even on site at all, they may nevertheless be driving through a work zone, and should be aware of all signs, markers, barriers, etc. around the area. Drivers that don’t observe these sign warnings may be in for some hefty fines as a result.
Fines and Penalties in Work Zones
It should be no surprise that fines for violating traffic laws in work zones in Louisiana are significantly more than violations that occur in other areas. Indeed, every state in the nation poses heavy fines and penalties for speeding or other violations in work or construction zones. And this is typically for good reason.
According to the Louisiana DOTD, more than 40,000 people are injured each year as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones, including over 1,200 fatalities. Moreover, in a period of just 4 years, the number of fatalities increased nearly 20%.
By their very nature, work zones will often have workers or employees on highways with hundreds, or even thousands, of vehicles zooming by at high speeds. In order to protect these workers, as well as drivers of vehicles on the highway that may face debris or other materials as a byproduct of road construction, Louisiana law provides for double any standard fine imposed. Specifically, section 32:57(H) of the Louisiana Revised Statutes reads:
“If a person operating a motor vehicle exceeds the speed limit on the portion of a highway which is under active construction and construction workers are on site, or which is in the process of being repaired and construction workers are on site, the fine shall be twice the standard fine imposed.
Although the fines on drivers may be significant, accidents may not always be the fault of the driver alone. Often, fault may fall to breach of duty by the state. Specifically, DOTD.
State’s Duty to Drivers and Workers
As mentioned above, highway construction and maintenance necessitates a higher level of safety and care, both for drivers and workers. While this means increased fines for violating traffic laws in work zones, it also means that the state DOTD must exercise a higher level of care when it comes to state highways and roads.
The state has a duty to maintain public roads and ensure they are in safe condition and do not pose any unreasonable dangers. This often means that DOTD is responsible for erecting signs, barricades and other necessary warnings to alert drivers of possible road defects.
If you or a loved one has received a fine or suffered injury while driving in a work zone, you should contact a qualified attorney immediately. Due to the many nuances of traffic law in Louisiana, including the duty of the state to maintain roads and warn drivers, a qualified and experienced attorney can help you navigate these laws, and ensure you aren’t held accountable for unnecessary penalties.