Obey the sign or pay double the fine.
For years B.C. motorists have been warned to heed the speed limit in construction zones to avoid hefty traffic fines, but it turns out the signs were less than accurate.
No one stopped to check the B.C. Offence Act, it seems.
The B.C. Flagging Association says it was shocked to learn that traffic fines do not double in construction zones -- despite signs posted by the transportation ministry. The revelation comes just as road construction season moves into high gear.
B.C. had a steady increase in injuries and fatalities among traffic controllers a decade ago. In 2004 alone, there were 13 such deaths in the province, though the toll hasn't been as great in recent years.
A base speeding fine, outside of a construction zone, is $138 and that climbs to $196 in construction zones, almost $100 less than a double fine. If the speed is 21-40 kilometres above the limit, the fine climbs to $253 compared to $196 outside of the zones.
"I am very shocked," said Cheryl Woldum, who operates Deb's Flagging Co. in Kamloops. "There are a lot of crazy drivers out there, a lot of cellphones and texting."
She said one of her traffic controllers recently had to strike a vehicle with her sign because the woman at the wheel was texting and paying no attention to the road. Woldum herself has had many close calls.
"It's a job we do; we put ourselves out there."
In a media interview Thursday, Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom suggested the confusion arises from the 1990s, when the fines doubled to $150 from $75. Since then, the province has moved to graduated fines to reflect the seriousness of offences.
Woldum, a traffic flagger for more than a decade, said it's important to always have an escape zone, but that's not always possible.
"Like at Hoffman's Bluff — it's really dangerous to jump off the road. You're pretty much an open target for them."
Highway zones are the worst and professional truck drivers are the biggest offenders, she added.
"Our hands are tied. I wish there were more police out there, especially on the highways."
RCMP Sgt. Steve Frayne, unit commander of Central Interior Traffic Services, was aware of the discrepancy and said it's not the only one in the Motor Vehicle Act.
"It has even confused some policemen," he said. If a doubled fine were issued, it could easily be disputed and thrown out.
"I would give the same advice to flaggers I give to anybody: never turn your back on any driver."
It's dangerous to assume that oncoming drivers are in control of their vehicles, he said.
Association spokeswoman Diane Herback said flaggers have done everything they can to protect themselves, and now it's time for the province to stiffen fines in hopes of keeping dangerous drivers out of construction zones. The association was formed two years ago partly to lobby for construction zone safety.
She estimates that one in three drivers speeds past her.