Columbia, SC— The South Carolina Senate and House have both passed a bill to improve safety in highway work zones, but one state senator is blocking its final passage because he says it would be unfair. The bill would increase the penalties and fines for speeding in highway work zones.
The bill is called “Peanut’s Law,” after Kenneth “Peanut” Long, Jr. He was a highway work zone flag man working in Williamsburg County when he was hit and killed by a speeding driver in 2013. The driver got only a $310 fine and four points on his license. Under this bill, someone who speeds in a work zone and kills someone could be charged with reckless vehicular homicide. Penalties would also increase if someone were injured, or just for speeding through a work zone without injury.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, is the sponsor of the bill. He says, “Peanut’s law does in South Carolina what other states are doing. They have enhanced penalties and increased awareness for motorists traveling in construction zones. We’ve got some construction workers who are out who are fixing our roads, doing a great job for the people of South Carolina and we’ve had some fatalities. We’ve had serious injuries and fatalities in South Carolina and this is one thing that we can do to help add an extra layer of safety to our construction workers.”
And it would also protect drivers and passengers. According to AAA, 85 percent of the people killed in highway work zone accidents are drivers and passengers, not highway workers.
But Sen. Gerald Malloy is blocking the bill, saying we have too many laws and that Peanut’s Law would criminalize something that’s not intentional.
“If your wife or a family member is taking someone from soccer practice and then they’re going to get to piano lessons and they’re driving 40 in a 35 mile-an-hour zone and then a bad occurrence happens in a work zone because they missed the sign or something and there’s an accident, then that person has a pretty severe criminal violation,” he says.
He says he’s very sympathetic any time someone is hurt or killed, but doesn’t think it’s good policy to change state law in this situation.