It’s construction season in Michigan. It seems as if around almost every corner, there awaits yet another stretch of bright orange cones slowing down traffic and making you late for work. In the absence of any active workers or other construction equipment, you might wonder if the orange cones alone indicate a requirement to obey work zone laws and, specifically, reduced speed limits.
Undoubtedly, safety should be any driver’s main concern, and knowing the proper work zone laws can help ensure safety remains a top priority. Risky driving behavior can lead to serious injuries or death. According to reports from the Office of Highway Safety Planning, Michigan work zones saw 4,035 crashes, 11 fatal crashes, 14 fatalities, and 1,050 injuries in 2020. Individuals working to rebuild and maintain our roads deserve our gratitude for risking their lives. One way to express appreciation is by simply knowing and following work zone laws. So what exactly qualifies as a “work zone”?
What Is a Work Zone?
In Michigan, a “work zone” is defined as a portion of a street or highway that meets any of the following:
- Lies between a "Work Zone Begins" sign and an "End Road Work" sign;
- Lies between a "Begin Work Convoy" sign and an "End Work Convoy" sign and is for construction, maintenance, or utility work activities conducted by a work crew and more than one moving vehicle;
- For construction, maintenance, surveying, or utility work activities conducted by a work crew and one moving or stationary vehicle exhibiting a rotating beacon or strobe light located between the following points:
- A point that is 150 feet behind the rear of the vehicle or that is the point from which the beacon or strobe light is first visible on the street or highway behind the vehicle, whichever is closer to the vehicle; or
- A point that is 150 feet in front of the vehicle or that is the point from which the beacon or strobe light is first visible on the street or highway in front of the vehicle, whichever is closer to the vehicle.
Other Relevant Laws and Penalties
While driving through a work zone, it is crucial to pay attention to any posted signs. If you see a “Work Zone Begins” sign, you are, in fact, in a work zone and must obey work zone laws. Under MCL 257.627(6), a work zone with a closed or partially closed lane due to highway construction has a speed limit of 45 mph, unless a different speed limit is determined and posted.
Those who violate the speed limit in a work zone are responsible for a civil infraction. The associated penalties are heightened as compared to those penalties involved with moving violations outside of work zones. For example, Public Act 149 of 2002 provides for the number of points assessed for speeding violations in work zones:
- Speeding 10 mph or less over the posted limit in a work zone: 3 points
- Speeding more than 10 mph but not more than 15 mph over the posted limit in a work zone: 4 points
- Speeding more than 15 mph over the posted limit in a work zone: 5 points
Accumulating too many points can have associated consequences with your insurance policy as rates typically increase whenever points are added to a driver’s record. Additionally, drivers who accumulate 12 or more points within a two-year period will be required to undergo a driver assessment reexamination. These reexaminations are required by the Michigan Secretary of State and are conducted by driver analysts, who may restrict, suspend, or revoke your driver’s license depending on the outcome of the reexamination. To learn more about getting your driver’s license reinstated, check out our Driver’s License Restoration in Michigan blog.
In addition to having points placed on your driving record, more serious violations can also lead to criminal penalties. In 2008, the Michigan Legislature passed what is known as “Andy’s Law,” which increased criminal penalties for harming or killing construction workers in work zones. Under MCL 257.601b, moving violations within work zones can be penalized by double the fine otherwise prescribed for that moving violation. Further, it makes moving violations within work zones that cause injury to another person a misdemeanor, as well as violations within work zones leading to the death of another person a felony punishable by a fine of no more than $7,500 or by imprisonment for no more than 15 years, or both.
Have You Been Accused of a Work Zone Traffic Violation?
Safety is our top priority, and it should be yours as well. Violating work zone laws is a serious matter. If you find yourself in a situation in which you are being accused of a work zone violation, you will need the help of an experienced attorney. Our criminal defense team is here to help.
At Grewal Law PLLC, our team of attorneys will protect your rights and fight to get you the best possible outcome. Call us at (888) 211-5798 to schedule a consultation and learn your rights.