Missouri bill to enhance highway safety advances

| 4/27/2006

A Missouri House panel has approved a bill intended to make the state’s roadways safer. The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.

Sponsored by Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, the highway safety bill initially dealt solely with increasing the existing penalty for drivers who fail to move over for emergency vehicles.

Among the provisions added to the bill are protections for workers in construction zones.

The bill – SB872 – would stiffen penalties for drivers who fail to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles that are parked by the road with their lights flashing and for failure to pull over and make way for oncoming emergency vehicles.

On two-lane highways, drivers would be required to reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles.

Violators would face up to a year in jail and/or as much as a $1,000 fine.

Gibbons said he sought the protections in the legislation because four state troopers have been killed while working traffic in the past four years.

“Highway patrolmen and emergency responders work everyday to save lives. We need to do what we can to save theirs,” Gibbons said in a written statement.

The bill also would increase a number of penalties for people who drive recklessly through work zones.

Scott Stotlemeyer, a Missouri Department of Transportation technical support engineer, recently said 28 people were killed in work zones in 2004. He blamed careless driving for most of the deaths.

Under the bill, anyone found speeding or passing illegally in a work zone when workers are present would face a $1,000 fine, with eight points added to their driver’s license.

Existing Missouri law fines violators $250 for speeding in work zones.

Failing to stop when directed by a worker or intentionally striking construction barrels also could result in the hefty penalties.

One other provision in the bill is intended to increase safety at intersections in the state. It would stiffen the penalty for failure to yield the right of way if someone is injured or killed as a result.

State law now calls for offenders to complete 25 hours of community service and pay a $25 fine and court costs.

The bill would increase the penalty by allowing a 30-day license suspension and additional fines up to $200.

If approved by the House, it would head back to the Senate for approval of changes before moving to Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk.