All states take a stern view of drivers tearing through work and construction zones at full speed. The Governors Highway Safety Association indicates that most impose "enhanced" penalties for speeding and other violations in these areas. You won't just get a fine - your fine will most likely be doubled. And if you commit a work-zone infraction while driving in some states, you could serve jail time or lose your license for a period of time.

What exactly is a work zone?

The question becomes: Do workers have to be present for enhanced fines to take effect? Does a paving machine sitting idle at the side of the road count?

According to the GHSA, 42 states and the District of Columbia take a lot of the guesswork out of it. They require that signs warning of enhanced penalties for speeding and other infractions be posted in work areas. Pennsylvania obligingly flashes lights on its signs when the work zone is active, meaning that workers are present.

Workers do have to be present in 25 states and the District of Columbia, but why take a chance? If you're zipping along at 55 miles per hour, you might not notice the worker crouched down to inspect something on the ground beside that idle paving machine. If you see a sign, it's probably best to err on the side of caution and just slow down.

Enhanced penalties

The penalty for speeding in a work zone is a doubled fine in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Among other states, some have set specific dollar amounts and they can be steep. Speeding in a work zone can cost you up to $2,000 in Georgia, which is also a state where workers don't necessarily have to be present, and even a barrier on the side of the road marking a work area will do it if there's a sign in place. Fines increase with multiple offenses in Indiana, topping out at $1,000 for a third violation in three years. Enhanced penalties could even include jail time in Georgia, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Then there's Pennsylvania, a state that takes its work zones pretty seriously. If you're found to be going 11 mph over the limit in an area under construction, you can lose your license for 15 days. Authorities will probably know exactly how fast you were going, too, at least if you're traveling on an interstate. Speed-monitoring devices are installed at the scene of any project costing $300,000 or more.

Other precautions

The bottom line is that slowing down in a work zone can save you a lot of headaches. Turn your headlights on, too, as an added precaution - it's required while driving in all Pennsylvania work zones, active or not. Be patient and resign yourself to the fact that it's going to take you a little longer to get where you're going.

Work zone penalties come down to state law. What holds true in Maryland may not be the case in Delaware, so check the GHSA's list of state penalties and rules before you hit the highway.

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