MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This Friday, drivers will have to reduce their speed in construction zones. A new law will force motorists to slow down to 45 miles per hour or face a costly ticket if they are caught speeding in roadside work zones.
The new law comes after the deaths of Craig Carlson and Ron Rajkowski, who were hit and killed in October of 2011. The two were working in a construction zone on Interstate 35 near Burnsville, Minn. when an out of control driver crashed into them.
Their widows, Deb Carlson and Jodi Rajkowski, have found purpose at the State Capitol over the last two years.
“I still think about what could have been and what we would be doing at this point, right now,” Deb Carlson said.
They’ve spent countless hours fighting for a new law in Carlson’s and Rajkowski’s honor.
Their effort didn’t come easily. Grief and determination took their widows through two legislative sessions.
“There was a time when we didn’t think that any of it would go through,” Carlson said.
Their push for change started after they learned the driver that killed their husbands wouldn’t receive a speeding ticket. The posted speed limit through the construction zone was 70 miles per hour.
“Given the chance, that the speed limit would have been lowered at that time, he might still be here today,” Carlson said.
According to MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle, there are 1,700 construction zone crashes each year. Since 2010, 31 of those crashes have been fatal.
This past year, lawmakers took action to force drivers to slow down.
“The number one thing we ask is that drivers just use common sense. And the number one way that they use common sense to save lives is to just pay attention,” Lt. Col. Matt Langer of the MN State Patrol said.
Starting Friday, motorists will follow a 45 mph speed limit or face a $300 fine.
“We expect this new increased fine will grab motorists’ attention and get them to slow down when going through work zones,” Zelle said.
For Carlson, the accomplishment still comes with great sadness as she thinks of the cost paid to bring change.
“It didn’t seem important enough, prior, to make those changes so that he could be here today with me,” Carlson said.
There are certain criteria for this 45 mph speed limit to apply.
The construction zone has to be in place for more than 24 hours, workers have to be on site and the construction has to take up partial or full lane of traffic.