New vehicle laws will begin on Aug. 28
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SIKESTON — Hefty fines and crime classification upgrades are among penalties motorists will face if they break one of a few laws relating to vehicle operation that take effect Aug. 28.
A new highway work zone safety law addresses the crime, “endangerment of a highway worker.” The law states if someone commits the offense in which no death or injury occur, they could receive a fine up to $1,000 and have four points against their driver’s license.
The offense becomes “aggravated endangerment of a highway worker” if a death or injury results, and the offender can receive a fine up to $5,000 for an injury and $10,000 for deaths. Twelve points will be added against their driver’s license.
“Work zones are a very dangerous area. Every year we have people killed in construction and work zone areas,” said Sgt. Dale Moreland, public information officer for Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop E. “The Missouri Department of Transportation works hard at placing signs, flagmen, cones and signs to reduce speed; people really need to pay attention.”
A person endangers a highway worker if one of the following occurs: the motorist exceeds the posted speed limit by 15 mph or more; passes another vehicle in a work zone and injures or kills a highway worker; fails to stop for a work zone flagman or fails to obey traffic control signals in the work zone; physically assaults or attempts to assault a highway worker with a vehicle or other instrument; intentionally strikes or moves barrels, barriers, signs or other devices manufactured to control the flow of traffic for a reason other than avoiding an obstacle, emergency or to protect the health and safely of another person; or commits various offenses in which points may be assessed.
“It’s great the legislators took a step up in getting the legislation passed,” said Craig Compass, Southeast Missouri district traffic engineer for MoDOT. “Our workers are in areas five feet from motorist. They’re in very dangerous situations and a lot of motorists don’t realize that.”
The best advice Compass has for motorists is to “just pay attention. “Our workers are highly educated on the dangers. The public should know one false move could be a life, and sometimes they lapse on that thought process,” Compass said.
Also included is a new law that any person convicted of a second or subsequent moving violation within a work zone will be fined $75. The law states a person who is convicted of speeding or passing a vehicle in a work zone when a highway worker is present a second or following time will be fined $300 in addition to any other fine authorized by law.
While the “Slow Down, Move Over” law has been in effect since 2002, it’s come more into light over the past year with highway patrol officers being injured and killed by motorists.
“The move-over law is very important,” Moreland said. “Our campaign is to really let people know that they need to move over and slow down for the safety of officers or the general public.”
The new law increases the penalty on motorists who fail to move over when approached by an oncoming emergency vehicle and motorists who fail to move over when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor .
“Before this new law, it was up to individual prosecutors or counties and now there’s a law that specifically covers failing to move over and slow down,” Moreland explained.
And it doesn’t have to be patrol — it can be anything displaying an emergency light, Moreland pointed out.
Penalties will also increase for someone who commits involuntary manslaughter in the first degree if he or she fails to move over into another lane of traffic or slow down when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle and negligently causes the death of an emergency worker. A violation in this nature is a class B felony. An assault in the second degree occurs when an emergency worker is injured under the same circumstances.
Moreland said the patrol has noticed more motorists are moving over. “We have really seen a change in that in the past two or three months. People are doing much better,” Moreland said.
Another law to take effect says any person who fails to properly yield for a school bus, when the failure to yield results in the injury of any child, will be guilty of a class D felony. Any person who fails to properly yield for a school bus where the violations causes the death of any child will be guilty of a class C felony.
“We have many, unfortunately, people who do not stop for buses. That’s uncalled for. That’s a safety factor for all of our children on buses,” Moreland said.
Troop E hasn’t had many deaths associated with motorists not yielding to school buses, but it does receive several notifications throughout the troop about people not yielding, Moreland said.