The City of Saskatoon says its workers are put at risk every day as drivers continue to speed through and ignore signs for work zones.
Angela Gardiner, the city’s acting general manager of transportation and utilities, said Monday the number of these zones has increased this year as Saskatoon’s construction program grows.
“We have road repairs, we have new construction underway, as well as maintenance of our roadway and water and sewer system,” Gardiner said.
She added aside from drivers not slowing down, workers are still seeing people simply driving through their work site.
“It’s not uncommon for motorists to come up to a barricade, remove it and go through. Even if you don’t see someone working there, there might be some excavation there, concrete that’s curing,” she said.
“We’ve also seen and heard incidents of motorists just driving up on the sidewalk around the barricade.”
Gardiner said workers are also reporting more instances of drivers being verbally abusive.
“They hear aggression from drivers, people are entering their work zones, vulgar language,” she said.
“At the end of the day, they just want to get home safely to their family and their loved ones.”
Gardiner pointed to an incident on June 13 where a city grader was attacked by a man wielding a Molotov cocktail and a baseball bat.
A 46-year-old man, now facing mischief and weapons charges for the alleged attack, is also accused of returning to the scene and trying to interfere with a street sweeper sent to clean up the mess.
“(The driver) was just doing his job, and he doesn’t deserve the type of treatment he received,” Gardiner said.
She added while the city is responsible for worker safety, drivers are also responsible for obeying road signs and not speeding.
“The only difference between those people in the work zones and the people driving by is the level of protection they would receive if there was a collision.”
Staff Sgt. Patrick Barbar with the Saskatoon Police Service traffic unit said drivers have many reasons to slow down – not the least of which is the province’s recent increase to speeding fines in work zones.
“They were doubled from what they were previously,” Barbar said, explaining that a driver going 20 km/h over in a Saskatchewan work zone limit would be fined $440.
For someone speeding 40 km/hr over the zone limit, it’ll cost $1,008.
“I don’t know that individual drivers are necessarily getting worse, but people are so busy, they lead busy lives, they often fail to think about those people on the road who are most vulnerable,” Barbar said, adding distracted driving within work zones is still a big concern.
The city is working closely with police this summer to enforce speed restrictions and other common work zone violations.
Drivers are also reminded that while most work takes place during the day, some happens at night to lessen the impact on traffic.