Senate approves Rarick bill to improve safety in road construction zones

The Minnesota Senate today moved to increase the safety of road workers and motorists in construction zones by unanimously passing Senate File 1753, which gives peace officers the authority to issue citations if a driving violation is reported by a work zone flagger.

“Road construction presents many hazards for workers and motorists,” said Sen. Jason Rarick (R-Pine City), the bill’s chief author. “Our number one objective must be keeping people safe, but right now police officers have limited power to go after people who jeopardize that safety. We already grant bus drivers the authority to report violations surrounding school buses; granting that same authority to work zone flaggers will keep everyone safer in these dangerous areas.”

Improving the safety for road workers and flaggers is an ongoing going mission for departments of transportation across the country. Work zone obstacles like traffic pattern changes, skinnier lanes, limited visibility, and narrow rights of way can often result in crashes, injuries, or fatalities. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2017 there were 799 work zone fatalities nationwide, 132 of which involved workers.

Under Sen. Rarick’s bill, a peace officer will be able to issue a citation to a driver within 4 hours of the incident if a qualified work zone flagger reports a violation, including a description of the vehicle and time of the incident.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 64-0, but it awaits action by the House of Representatives. The new law would be effective on August 1.