Senator Calls for Work Zone Safety Bill

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The death of a South Carolina Department of Transportation worker has a state senator renewing his calls for more awareness about the importance safety around construction zones.

56-year-old Paul Lewis Fee died Saturday after a hit-and-run on Farrow Road Friday night. He had worked for the department since 2007.

Fee is one of three DOT workers killed in the last five years as they did their jobs on state roadways.

For Berkeley County Senator Larry Grooms, it is a reminder of why our state needs change.

"I hate that is has to take a tragedy like this to raise awareness to such an important issue," said Grooms, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.

He says he has worked for the last few years to pass legislation to increase penalties for those who speed in work zones.

"We're behind other states, this is something that needs to occur. I regret that we did not pass this last year," said Grooms.

The bill is called "Peanut's Law" named for Kenneth "Peanut" Long, Jr. The 22-year-old was killed in 2013 while he worked as a flag man on a construction project in Williamsburg County.

Since 2004, preliminary data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety says 150 pedestrians were injured in a work zone across the state. Their numbers show 24 pedestrians were killed during that same time frame.

Grooms says drivers should be more aware.

"You know you're in a work zone when you see construction going on. You know you're in a work zone when you see the orange cones. I think the motorists that are driving understand that they're entering a work zone and there should be a heightened sense of what's around them," said Grooms.

The bill would increase fines and add points to your license for endangering of a highway worker. Grooms believes the stiffer penalties would drive down the number of injuries and deaths in South Carolina work zones.

Grooms says it would apply to state, county and utility work sites as employees do their duties on a highway right-of-way.

"It's very dangerous being on the side of the highway when you're performing work for a public good, for a public purpose, and they should be commended for their work, and it shouldn't be a life threatening situation that they're in," he said.

Peanut's Law is currently moving through the Senate committee process. If passed, it could move to the full Senate.


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