More than 200 Pennsylvania lawmakers received letters last week from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association urging them to "re-think" a bill that would increase penalties for trucks and car drivers who violate work zone laws. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer suggested modifications other than hefty fines would be more effective in reducing accidents.
In early October, Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker accepted the Task Force Report on Truck Safety Strategy and called for the General Assembly to pass HR2410 increasing penalties for drivers who cause serious bodily injury or the death of a person in a work zone.
The bill provides for a 15-day suspension of a license for any driver who commits an accident reported by law enforcement to PennDOT; and a 15-day license suspension for any driver who speeds in excess of 11 mph or more in an active work zone.
The bill also calls for doubling fines for traffic offenses committed in active work zones; making it a summary offense for a driver to operate a motor carrier vehicle, bus or school bus with faulty brake equipment.
In addition, the bill establishes tougher safety-certification, inspection and registration renewal requirements for motor carrier vehicles and increased monetary penalties for motor carrier vehicles other than trailers that operate under a suspended registration.
OOIDA's letter points out that accidents in construction zones are caused by inappropriate and thoughtless driving. The association strongly feels educating motorists, not handing out more speeding tickets, will make construction zones safer.
"Many state legislatures have passed legislation doubling fines for speeding in construction zone, but there is absolutely no evidence anywhere that these higher penalties reduce accidents," Spencer said.
OOIDA also told lawmakers that the design in the construction zone plays a major role in minimizing accidents and this should be a priority.
The next action on the legislation will be Nov. 12 in the House as the Rules Committee takes the bill to the floor for a vote. On that date, all lawmakers will be back in Harrisburg after election break.
Pennsylvania's legislative session is over Nov. 30.