Do Posted Construction Zone Speed Limits Always Apply in Texas?
It seemed like forever that the 45-mile-an-hour construction zone speed limit signs were up along that stretch of U.S. 87 between San Angelo and Wall. There was a long time when no construction was actually going on, even though the road work was not finished.
Since the speed limit on that stretch of the road is typically 75, many motorists took it upon themselves to do the regular speed limit when the lower construction zone speed limit signs were present. Some found out what a big mistake that is.
In Texas, reduced speed limits become the law when drivers reach these signs and remain the maximum legal speed limit until the next sign posting a higher speed limit. This is regardless of whether workers, orange barrels, or any sign of construction are visible.
When multiple work zones occur within a couple of miles of each other, the reduced speed limit stays in effect until the end of the final work zone.
There have been challenges to tickets received in Texas when the defendant argued that no workers were present. The ruling in Chance v. State was:
"Evidence was legally sufficient to support doubling of fine for speeding in construction zone with workers present, despite defendant's argument that no workers were in the particular section of the construction zone in which he traveled and his offer of photograph of zone as proof there were no workers present; fine enhancement statute did not require workers to be in a zone of potential danger or to be visible, citing officer and defendant testified defendant was exceeding posted speed limit and that he was driving through a posted construction zone when pulled over, officer testified workers were present, and defendant's photograph showed only one directional perspective of the zone." Chance v. State (App. 14 Dist. 2008) 2008 WL 4390637, petition for discretionary review refused, rehearing on petition for discretionary review denied.
So what are the penalties for speeding in a construction zone in Texas? Fines up to $1000 can be levied when workers are present. Otherwise, the penalties are generally doubled. Tailgating in construction zones is also dangerous and can land you a $200 ticket.
If you get a speeding ticket due to speeding in a construction zone, you cannot have the ticket dismissed by taking an approved defensive driving course, unlike some tickets in other situations. This means that you cannot have points on your license removed after a work zone citation, and this could mean huge insurance rate increases.
There is good reason for these lower construction zone speed limits. In 2019, more than 26,000 crashes, resulting in 690 serious injuries and 167 deaths, occurred in construction and maintenance work zones statewide. Five construction workers, 138 motorists or passengers, and 24 pedestrians or bicyclists were among those killed.
So, the answer is yes. You must follow posted construction zone speed limits even when no workers are present. It can be frustrating, but a few minutes of saved time can never equal the value of even one human life.