Raleigh, N.C. — A bill that would have restricted the state Department of Transportation's use of higher speeding fines to protect its workers was turned into a study Thursday morning to avert a likely defeat.
House Bill 136 would have banned the DOT and State Highway Patrol from imposing an additional $250 fine for speeding in a work zone unless workers are present and actively working at the time the speeder is caught.
Sponsor Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, said law enforcement in her county is using a work zone as a speed trap. She accused the DOT of posting the higher fines in too many places where little work is actually going on.
However, one House member after another, Democrats and Republicans, lined up to speak against the proposal, saying it would lead to more accidents and injuries.
Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, said the higher fines are an effective deterrent to speeding in work zones, and that protects both workers and drivers in that area.
He said both the construction industry and AAA have come out strongly against the bill, as has the DOT, which requires an engineering assessment to determine a work zone's danger before a higher fine can be posted. Most do not qualify.
"There is a solution. If you believe the work zones are improperly fined, call DOT," Arp told Stevens.
Others pointed out that it can be very difficult to tell whether workers are present, especially at night or in rainy weather.
"These work zones go on for miles. You may have work going on in one section and not in another," said Rep, Nelson Dollar, R-Wake. "How far away do you need to be? How will the courts judge that?"
When it became apparent the bill would fail its vote, Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, amended it to turn it into a study bill instead. It directs the DOT to examine the issue to see if any revisions to the law are needed to balance worker safety with traffic flow. That report is due back to the legislature by December.
The amended bill passed the House 107-5 and goes next to the Senate.