BARBOURSVILLE — It’s hard to miss the flashing sign tracking motorists’ speed in the work zone on Interstate 64 in Barboursville.
However, just last week the average speed clocked by the West Virginia Department of Transportation far exceeds the 55 mph construction-zone speed limit.
“The average speed was 81 miles per hour, and the WVDOT has clocked drivers traveling as fast as 108 miles per hour in interstate work zones,” said Randy Damron, public relations spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
On Monday, West Virginia State Police and the WVDOT announced a weeklong speed enforcement plan to stop vehicles and issue citations for speeding in an effort to keep construction workers and motorists safe.
“Due to the speeding complaints, reckless driving complaints and number of accidents we have had here, we are stepping up patrols for the next several days trying to get motorists to slow down and keep everyone safe,” said State Police Sgt. B.K. Wellman.
Wellman said State Police troopers using radar, as well as chase cars, will be in the area eight hours a day targeting speeders.
“We started at 7 a.m. and I would say we have pulled over 35 to 40 motorists for speeding in the first two hours,” Wellman said. “Every citation we have wrote this morning has been at least 14 miles over the speed limit and we got one a few minutes ago that was traveling 83 miles an hour, which is 27 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.”
Wellman said fines for speeding are doubled in a work zone.
“The amount of the fine depends on how much over the speed limit you are going, but you are looking at a bare minimum of a couple hundred dollars,” he said.
Wellman says drivers’ top excuse for speeding in a work zone is they were not paying attention or they do not know the speed limit.
“I don’t know how you don’t know when there are signs posted miles before and throughout the work zone,” he said. “Those aren’t valid excuses.”
Damron says the goal of the targeted enforcement is simple.
“We are trying to make motorists aware they are in a work zone and let them know they need to slow down and pay attention to the signs,” he said.
Damron says the problem has plagued work zones in West Virginia for years.
“Since we started keeping track in the 1940s, we’ve had 50 DOH personnel killed in work zones,” he said.
Damron said the danger posed by speeding through a work zone is even more prevalent for motorists and those riding with them.
“A work zone requires your full attention,” he said. “There are so many distractions in vehicles these days with cell phones, the radio and stuff like that, but when you see an orange sign you need to slow down, pay attention and read the signs. They will tell you what to do.”
Wellman says the targeted enforcement could continue for weeks if motorists don’t slow down.
“We will take it on a week to week basis and see how it goes,” he said.
Wellman said they are also working with Village of Barboursville police officers.
“They are up here on a daily basis, so this is in addition to them,” he said.
Last month, Gov. Jim Justice named April as Work Zone Safety Month to draw attention to the importance of safety in highway work zones.