West Virginia State Police are cracking down on speeders in the Interstate 64 work zone west of the Huntington Mall, and that’s good.
The normal speed through that area during rush hour is at least 80 mph. That’s 10 mph over the posted speed limit, but too many West Virginia drivers consider posted speed limits on interstates and primary roads to be recommended minimums.
The posted speed limit in the construction zone is 55 mph, but that number is ignored far too often. Drivers often see a police cruiser parked with its blue lights flashing, but when they notice there’s no pursuit, why bother with obeying the law?
You bother because it’s a safety issue for construction workers and other drivers. At least you should. When the average speed through the construction area is 81 mph, something must be done.
On Monday, West Virginia State Police and the state Department of Transportation announced a weeklong speed enforcement plan to stop vehicles and issue citations for speeding.
“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.
In the first two hours of enhanced enforcement on Monday, police pulled over 35 to 40 motorists. Each person cited was doing at least 69 mph, Wellman said.
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.
DOT spokesman Randy 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 the Division of Highways began keeping track in the 1940s, 50 DOH personnel have been killed in work zones, he said.
West Virginia drivers tend to speed because there is little enforcement of traffic laws unless an accident occurs. They are careful on roads with curves and a number of entry points, but put them on an open road and they tend to ignore the posted limits. Lack of enforcement means few or no consequences for speeding.
This week’s crackdown on speeding in the work zone was overdue. No one is asking police to set up speed traps, but enforcement efforts such as this in work zones and elsewhere will make West Virginia roads safer.