The highest fines in Canada for drivers caught speeding in construction zones has been implemented in Saskatchewan, only two months after a flagger was hit and killed near Midale.
“We have implemented five specific measures to increase safety in construction zones, that we could do very quickly, including fines, rumble strips and gates,” said Doug Wakabayashi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure.
“Almost immediately after the death of Ashley Richards, the premier was clear that he wanted several government agencies to work with the RCMP, heavy construction contractors and other partners like the heavy construction safety association.”
The provincial government has increased the fine for speeding in a construction zone to $210.
The new fine, which is triple the base fine for drivers caught speeding outside a construction zone, was implemented in response to the death of traffic control person Ashley Dawn Richards on Aug. 24.
Richards, 18, was working for HJR Asphalt, a Saskatoon-based Paving Contractor, when she was hit by a speeding vehicle on Highway 39 about eight kilometres north of Midale.
She was pregnant and working her first day on the job with a road construction crew at the time of her death.
Drivers will also be fined an additional $2 to $3 dollars for every kilometre they are caught speeding over the limit while travelling between 60 km/h up to 90 km/h.
In addition, there is a further increase from $4 to $6 for every km/h in excess of the speed limit while travelling faster than 90 km/h.
The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure is planning to take several other measures to improve safety in construction zones.
“We have looked at work done by other transportation authorities in other jurisdictions across North America,” said Wakabayashi.
“In addition to this initial measure, we are looking at other things we can do to improve flagger and motorist safety in construction zones.”
For example, a barricade or gate will be erected in the ditch and toward the shoulder of the road, which forces drivers to slow down as they enter a construction zone.
This particular measure is currently used in Manitoba.
Wakabayashi said rumble strips will also be used to slow down drivers in construction zones. This is listed as a best practice by the Federal Highway Administration in the United States.
Initially, these measures will be used in construction zones that are part of the national highway system in the province.
“In fall and winter our engineers will monitor the use of these measures and develop guidelines for their use on other parts of the highway system,” said Wakabayashi.
“We don’t do a lot of construction in the winter, so they will continue to collect data into the next construction season.”
Saskatchewan Government Insurance and the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure will work together to ensure that proper signage is in place to notify motorists that the fine for speeding in a construction zone is three times the base fine for speeding.
Signs will also inform drivers that photo radar will be in effect for the next construction season.
According to Wakabayashi, the photo radar requires some legislation before it can go forward.
Lieutenant-Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield announced during the throne speech on Oct. 25 that the Saskatchewan Party will introduce photo radar in construction zones.
In September, the RCMP launched a province wide safety blitz to catch speeders in construction zones, which involved officers wearing a construction outfit to observe drivers and make speed measurements.
“The RCMP dedicated traffic unit has written over 415 tickets for speeding in a construction zone throughout the past two months,” RCMP ‘F’ Division Sgt. Paul Dawson said.
“Our members have been vigilant in enforcing the Saskatchewan Traffic Safety Act throughout the fall construction season. Our message for those travelling in the Orange Zone is it shouldn’t take a ticket to make you slow down and save lives.”
These are tickets handed out by the RCMP Traffic unit. Other detachments in the force are also writing tickets in construction zones in Saskatchewan.
“We are not done yet,” said Wakabayashi.
“There is a lot of work still left to do. Our research has shown that drivers are confused about how to operate their vehicles in construction zones, so we are looking at launching an education campaign.”
A Regina man named Keith Dunford, 44, was charged on Oct. 22 by the RCMP in the death of Richards. He was charged under the criminal code with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.