I’m that guy, the scourge of your summer highway driving.
The one driver who’s driving the variable “work zone” speed limit while you’re zooming by.
I drive a long distance to work each day, and I don’t drive slow. I don’t obey the speed limit, but neither are most of the cars and trucks in my driving pack. I throw my share of side-eyes as I pass drivers who aren’t with the “let’s get there sooner” program.
But not in work zones. That’s where I’m the one getting the side-eye. That’s where I’m the one left in the dust.
That’s OK, because when they hit the lights and siren in the work zone, it won’t be me they’re after. Not this time.
But in December 2002 it was me. We were coming back from visiting my folks in Tennessee and were a couple of exits from home with three tired kids in the van. It was a construction zone, but it was a Sunday evening. Traffic was light and I was flying along. The regular speed limit was 65, but it was posted at 55 for construction. It was Sunday — no construction! No workers! Smooth sailing! Hit the gas!
A little voice in my head (OK, it was really 11-year-old Nicole in the back seat) told me to slow down, said there was a 55 mph sign. Said fines were doubled in a work zone. (I wondered who taught her to read and backseat drive.) I don’t remember the event exactly, but I probably acknowledged and then ignored her. It’s Sunday, no one’s working. Let’s try 70.
Cue the lights and siren. Someone’s working.
Township Officer Wagner, patrolling the interstate that day, was a gentleman. Because no construction workers were working and I wasn’t a jerk, he didn’t double my fine from $75. I was grateful.
I remember the fine as being higher than that, but maybe it’s because the little voice still reminds me, even 16 years later.
Nicole would be proud of me this summer, going the 55 or 60 as the sign allows. I’m not planning to become a statistic. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, there were 102 fatal crashes and 6,421 injury crashes in work zones between 2013 and 2017. That’s too many lives changed by being in a hurry.
The statistics don’t say how many of those crashes were caused by drivers going over the work zone speed limit, but I know when you’re making an effort to go the reduced speed, you’re paying more attention and less likely to be the next statistic.
The summer construction season is winding down, and the electronic speed limit signs will be put in storage.
That’s OK, because school is just getting started, so I’ll see you in the school zone. Please don’t honk. Twenty’s my limit. Make it yours.
You can reach Gary Presley at [email protected] The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer.