A new law could help deter drivers willing to take a potentially life-changing risk on roadways closed to traffic.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced Thursday a state law that penalizes drivers who ignore "road closed" and other safety warning signs and devices, a PennDOT press release said.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 114 into law in July, and it went into effect Tuesday, PennDOT spokeswoman Jan McKnight said.
The law reinforces the critical need for all drivers to obey traffic control signs and aims to increase safety for motorists and emergency responders in areas where flooding or other hazardous conditions exist.
"Too often, motorists decide their immediate needs outweigh the safety warning signs, and they ignore them, which increases hazards for them and emergency responders," said PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch. "This law underscores that we take safety seriously. When motorists are confronted with emergency road closures, we urge them to use common sense and obey the signs that are placed to keep them safe."
Under the law, motorists who drive around or through signs or traffic control devices closing a road or highway due to hazardous conditions will have two points added to their driving records and be fined up to $250, the release said. If the violation results in a need for emergency responders to be called, the fine is increased to between $250 and $500. In addition, violators will be held liable for repaying the costs of staging the emergency response.
"The reason that so many people drown during flooding is because few of them realize the incredible power of water," the National Weather Service's Turn Around, Don't Drown campaign website page said. "A mere six inches of fast-moving floodwater can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs. "
People do not know how deep an area covered with water is or the condition of the ground underneath when they happen upon it, particularly at night with limited vision, the website said.