Traffic laws and offenses governing motorists in the vicinity of emergency vehicles would be extended to apply to adjacent lanes 200 feet before and after work vehicles that display flashing lights, under legislation that passed the Senate unanimously today.

Senate Bill 5841, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, expands the area in which motorists must move into the next lane to accommodate stationary or slow-moving highway construction vehicles; highway maintenance vehicles; solid waste vehicles, and utility service vehicles. It also applies to highway construction and maintenance areas where flaggers and other workers are present.

“Highway maintenance workers, flaggers and others work under conditions that place them at the mercy of passing motorists,” Cleveland said. “The risk to their safety has become even greater in this digital age, as more and more people are texting and engaging in other forms of distracted driving.”

Monetary penalties in Washington state are double for drivers who speed in road construction zones. Total penalties and fines range from $153 to $788 depending on how much the motorist exceeds the speed limit. In addition, a motorist whose driving endangers or is likely to endanger roadway workers is guilty of reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or a jail sentence of up to 364 days and a mandatory, 60-day drivers’ license suspension.

SB 5841 extends those penalties by 200 feet before and after road work zones, vehicles, flaggers, and other workers.