YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - It's summer season in the Carolinas, and that means the roads are full of travelers. But before you head off for vacation, remember to keep in mind it is construction season too.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster just signed into law a new traffic violation which imposes stricter penalties for endangering highway workers. The legislation follows the tragic deaths of two South Carolina Department of Transportation workers in March.
Anthony Redman and Robert Clark were killed while inspecting a shoulder washout in Aiken County. The tragedy marks 39 deaths in the South Carolina Department of Transportation's history.
Their deaths hit close to home for highway workers all across the state, who are in danger nearly every day working on the road.
Granite Contracting owner Steve Cosper has been waiting three years for the bill to become law. He has about four crews working in the Rock Hill area, and he says it is extremely important for those who are just a step away from serious harm.
"You've got people coming by, whizzing by, 60, 70, 80 miles an hour, two feet away from a paver," Cosper said.
He says there have only been a handful of injuries at his business over nearly two decades. He outfits his workers with safety equipment and training as often as possible. But still, he knows he can only do so much - and the rest of his employees' safety falls in the hands of the driver.
"We are always one step away from getting on the wrong side of a cone, and that doesn't end well," Cosper said.
That's why he was pleased to see South Carolina's lawmakers increasing penalties to those who endanger or injure highway workers.
Under the new law, even if you do not injure a worker but still endanger them, you would be fined at least $500 and, at most, $1,000. If the worker is injured, that will cost you at least $1,000 and, at most, $2,000. If you cause serious bodily injury to the highway worker, that fine could be up to $5,000.
Cosper says with everyone being tempted by cell phones, distracted drivers are what worries him the most.
"Everybody has an electronic device these days - cell phone, GPS - if we could just get them to put it down and drive the car," Fort Mill Police Corporal Phillip Harrell said.
If not, you can expect to pay the price.
"They want to go home safe, so be patient with us, be mindful of us, watch out for us, watch out for our guys," Cosper said.
The new law also includes police officers working on the roads.