West Virginia is increasing enforcement of traffic laws in highway work zones in an effort to improve safety.
The Department of Transportation is using some of its federal grant money to pay for extra work zone patrols by West Virginia State Police troopers.
Media outlets report that state officials announced the safety initiative Tuesday.
“I think in the past motorists have become complacent when they see these blue lights sitting in a work zone and they think, ‘That trooper’s not going to pull out and come after me,”‘ state police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said.
“Well, they better watch out now because with this overtime money that we have, we’re going to be putting some extra patrols in these work zones.
“When you see these yellow vests, the next thing you might see if you’re speeding will be the blue lights. We all know what yellow and blue make. Yellow and blue make green, and what that green translates to is you’re going to be paying some fines and court costs.”
Excessive speed or distracted driving are responsible for about 90 percent of accidents in work zones, Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker said.
“With these new laws coming in making primary offenses texting and holding a handheld, I think you’re going to see some people learn pretty quick that you can’t do that,” Walker said of the cellphone laws that will take effect starting next month.
“So we keep hammering how avoidable accidents are when you just slow down, turn it off, put it away and just drive.”
Two work zone fatalities, both on Interstate 81 in the Eastern Panhandle, have been reported since road construction season began, said Department of Transportatsion spokesman Randy Damron.
Delegate Larry Faircloth, R-Berkeley, said he met with members of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s staff on Tuesday to discuss the public’s concerns about delays in a project to widen I-81, along with the frequency of accidents in the work zones. Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, had a similar conversation with Tomblin.
“Despite the fact that they are 300 miles away, they need to be made aware that taxpayer dollars should be the only thing paying for the highway project, not people’s lives,” Faircloth said. “I told them that it needs to be dealt with now. There’s wrecks on there every day, and it’s getting worse. Despite the fact that they are saying the project is going to be done by Labor Day, that doesn’t account for delays or anything. We have a problem now.”
Two troopers are being assigned around the clock for the I-81 project for the next few days, said Donna Hardy, mobility and safety engineer with the Division of Highways.
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