The Saskatchewan government plans to implement new workplace safety laws that will triple the fine for drivers caught speeding in construction zones and enforce speed limits through the use of photo radar.
“The announcement was excellent. It was great to hear,” said Josh Safronetz, operations manager with HJR Asphalt, a Saskatoon-based paving contractor. “We thanked the premier for the new safety measures and are quite happy. We hope enforcement will slow drivers down. I hope this experience can be used to increase safety in construction zones in other provinces.”
Lieutenant-Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield outlined the Saskatchewan Party government’s priorities for the legislative session on Oct. 25. These include a plan to introduce photo radar in construction zones, which are known as orange zones.
“Working with the RCMP, my government has already taken action to improve safety in Orange Zones throughout Saskatchewan,” he said in his speech from the throne.
“Additional measures will be taken to protect workers. Fines for speeding through construction zones will be increased to triple the normal penalty. My government also will introduce a legislative amendment to allow police to ticket drivers speeding through construction zones through the use of photo radar.”
The new workplace safety measures are being implemented in response to the death of an 18-year-old traffic control person named Ashley Dawn Richards on Aug. 24. Richards was working for HJR Asphalt, when she was hit by a speeding vehicle on Highway 39 about eight kilometres north of Midale.
She was pregnant and on her first day on the job with a road construction crew at the time of her death.
Her fiancé Ben Diprose, who worked on the same crew, held Richards in his arms as she died.
Richards had recently moved to Saskatchewan from Lakeside, N.B., to live with Diprose and start a family.
“My government’s strong desire is that these measures will cause drivers to slow down in the Orange Zone so this tragedy is never repeated,” said Schofield.
Keith Dunford, 44, of Regina was charged on Oct. 22 by Saskatchewan RCMP under the criminal code with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
Dunford was arrested at the scene on Aug. 24 and taken into custody.
But, he was released from custody on the next day pending formal charges, which were based on an investigation by the RCMP traffic reconstructionist.
In the days after Richards was killed, Safronetz said people were still not paying attention to signs, speeding and passing in the same highway construction zone.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was angry and upset when he found out from the owner of HJR Asphalt on Aug. 30 that people were still breaking the Orange Zone laws where Richards was killed.
Wall asked the Minister of Highways and the Justice Minister to work with police and other stakeholders to look closely at all the options available for increasing safety in construction zones.
Safronetz asked the provincial government for stricter penalties in construction zones and the implementation of new measures, such as photo radar and stricter enforcement.
RCMP launched a province-wide safety blitz to catch speeders in construction zones using non-traditional enforcement methods, which involved officers wearing a construction outfit to observe drivers and take speed measurements. Officers patrolled construction sites near the communities of Langham, Delmas, and Weyakwin, in order to enforce the Orange Zone speed limits in North Central Saskatchewan.
Earlier this month, members of the B.C. Flagging Association were disappointed and angry when a driver received a fine, after pleading guilty to killing TCP Donald Cain, 49, in July 2010 in a highway construction zone in Mission.
Thor Shay, 59, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention in Abbotsford court on Oct. 15 and received a $1,500 fine.
The association was critical of the prosecutor because they wanted Shay to be charged with criminal negligence causing death.
The B.C. government made a commitment in September to double the fine for drivers caught speeding in construction zones.
In May, the B.C. Flaggers found out that signs across the province stating that fines double in construction zone were not backed by legislation.