- Tips on how YOU can avoid adding points to your driving record in Construction Zones
Tips on how YOU can avoid adding points to your driving record in Construction Zones
Last year, when the pandemic shuttered Michigan schools and businesses, causing significant reduction in automobile traffic, something unexpected happened: highway fatalities increased. While that tragic statistic came as a surprise, we were also shocked to learn that the greatest rise in accidents took place in construction zones.
Of course, Michigan always lives with highway work zones. Roadways are constantly punished and damaged due to the combination of our challenging climate (think the frigid winter cycle of ice and snow accumulating, thawing, repeating) the continual barrage of harsh road salt and pavement-pounding snow plows (road salt is proven to destroy highway surfaces), and, of course, the tremendous volume of traffic (Detroit has been ranked the 24th worst city in America for traffic congestion). As a result, Michigan has some of the poorest road conditions of any state — it’s ranked 9th worst in the country — and Detroit’s roads are the 5th worst among large cities.
So, it’s no wonder Michiganders endure a continual state of road construction and repair work. Indeed, some Michiganders might be tempted to rename our beautiful Great Lakes State the frustrating “Road Construction State” instead. Which makes it rather surprising that Michigan drivers have been praised as some of the best motorists in the nation (ranked third highest among the states in a recent study). Yet, if Michigan drivers are so good, how do you explain the recent increase in work zone fatalities?
We can’t be sure, other than to observe that the pandemic may have provided opportunities for more road construction projects which may have put more workers in harm’s way. Regardless of the reason, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) noted the growing construction zone accident problem last September and worked to call it to the attention of motorists at the time. Drivers would be wise to heed that warning, because penalties for injuring or killing a highway worker — not to mention merely speeding in a work zone — can be severe.
Hitting a highway worker can hurt you, too
Those strict construction zone penalties were put in place with the passage of Andy’s Law (named for then-19-year-old Andrew Lefko, who was hit and paralyzed while working on I-275) in 2001, which stipulated motorists who kill highway or road maintenance workers could be fined up to $7,500 and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Even before Andy’s Law was enacted, fines for speeding in work zones where workers are present had been doubled by Michigan law. The demerit points added to your driving record for speeding in work zones are also significant. Specifically, three points are assessed for driving up to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, four points for speeding between 10 and 15 miles over, and five points for exceeding the limit by more than 15 miles per hour.
Drivers should also know that insurance companies pay close attention to those accumulating demerit points. Getting points can cost you big money when your car insurance premiums are slammed with a surcharge — a penalty permitted by Michigan law. The insurance comparison site carinsurance.com reports that getting just one ticket for 11-16 miles per hour over the limit can result in a nearly 30 percent increase in your premiums. For the average Michigan driver, it adds up to a penalty of nearly $700 — the highest in the nation.
That might sound exorbitant, but it’s a small price to pay compared with the cost of defending yourself in court if you injure or kill a highway construction worker. Legal costs for an average manslaughter case can range from $75,000-$100,000 according to one price comparison website.
How to avoid construction zone catastrophes
Knowing ahead of time where to expect construction zones could help you avoid slowdowns and, of course, the highway hazards that can cause motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, and devastating impacts on your life. MDOT operates an online interactive traffic map that highlights active work zones (along with other highway incidents) so you can plan your trips accordingly. MDOT also has a helpful website linking to traffic condition maps in neighboring states, including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Of course, popular navigation apps such as Waze, Apple Maps, Google Maps, MapQuest, and other smartphone traffic-monitoring systems can also provide real-time traffic alerts and route you around slowdowns or incidents reported by authorities or other drivers.
Nationally, many states (but sadly not Michigan, Indiana, or Ohio) participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s toll-free 511 highway information system for drivers. By calling 511 while traveling in participating states, you can receive up-to-date reporting on car accidents, closures, construction, and traffic conditions. Among nearby states that provide this useful service are Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Kentucky, so be sure to keep 511 in mind when you’re traveling this summer.
It’s been said before, and we’ll say it again here: Please give highway workers a brake
The bottom line is that wherever you drive, you’ll want to think about the workers who build and maintain the roads you enjoy. A recent Detroit News article highlighted one such worker, a 27-year-old father who died after he was hit by a motorist in a 2017 highway construction zone crash in Sanilac County. A year after that incident, MDOT and the state’s construction industry founded the Work Zone Safety Task Force to help prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.
While we hope they’re successful, we do want to offer this piece of advice: If you are ever the victim of a construction zone accident, or know someone who has suffered as a result of a distracted or careless driver, Mike Morse Law Firm can offer assistance on how to best protect your rights and be compensated for your loss. Contact us here, or call 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). We’re ready to help 24/7.