Berkeley County Senator Larry Grooms is pushing for more safety regulations around construction zones following an accident that killed 56-year-old Paul Lewis Fee, an employee of the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Fee had worked for the SCDOT since 2007, and died Saturday after a fatal hit-and-run Friday night. He is one of three SCDOT workers killed on the job in the last 5 years.
"I hate that is has to take a tragedy like this to raise awareness to such an important issue," said Grooms, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Grooms has worked for the last few years to pass legislation to increase penalties for those who speed through construction zones. "We're behind other states. This is something that needs to occur. I regret that we did not pass this last year."
The proposed bill is called "Peanut's Law," named for Kenneth "Peanut" Long, Jr., a 22-year-old "flag man" who was killed on the job in 2013 at a construction site in Williamsburg County.
According to data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, 150 pedestrians have been injured in a work zone, and 24 pedestrians have been killed since 2004. Grooms encourages drivers to be more aware of their surroundings: "You know you're in a work zone when you see construction going on. You know you're in a work zone when you see the orange cones. I think the motorists that are driving understand that they're entering a work zone and there should be a heightened sense of what's around them."
"Peanut's Law" would increase fines and add points to your license for endangering a construction worker by speeding or driving recklessly through a work zone. Grooms believes stricter regulations and stronger penalties would help to decrease the number of injuries and deaths along South Carolina roadways. The bill would apply statewide, as well as in county and utility work sites.
"It's very dangerous being on the side of the highway when you're performing work for a public good, for a public purpose, and they should be commended for their work, and it shouldn't be a life threatening situation that they're in," commented Grooms. Peanut's Law is currently moving through the Senate committee process. If passed, it could move to the full Senate.