Bill to enhance highway safety sent to Missouri governor

| Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Missouri General Assembly has approved a bill intended to make the state’s roadways safer. The bill’s next stop is Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk.

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 – stiffens 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 accidents.

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.

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