08/15/2013 12:24 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT

A clear sign: Manitoba urged to crack down on speeders in construction zones

WINNIPEG - Manitoba's federation of labour is urging the province to crack down on speeding in construction zones following the death of a 21-year-old highway flag worker.

In an open letter to Labour Minister Jennifer Howard on Thursday, the federation highlighted the 2010 death of Brittany Murray, who was killed by a driver going nearly double the speed limit.

Michael Blostein, 79, was found not guilty of dangerous driving earlier this year. The verdict is being appealed.

"We have a serious problem in Manitoba if driving that fast in a construction zone is considered to be the reasonable community standard," wrote federation president Kevin Rebeck.

"It is essential that the province send a clear message to Manitoba drivers that failure to respect reduced speed limits in construction zones is a serious, life-and-death issue and that violators will face serious consequences."

The current practice of requiring drivers to slow down only when workers are present is too problematic, Rebeck said. Instead, Manitoba should have clear signs indicating where a construction zone begins and ends, as well as whether there are workers present.

Saskatchewan has brought in rumble strips and gates on major projects to alert drivers that they are entering a construction area. Manitoba should do the same, he suggested.

"If Manitoba is to become, as you put it in your recent five-year plan, 'the safest place to work in North America,' there is much more to be done in the area of road worker safety," Rebeck concluded.

"We urge Manitoba to implement similar rules, as quickly as possible, to ensure that there is no confusion for drivers about when and where they need to slow down to protect the safety of road workers. This is surely the greatest lesson we can learn from the Brittany Murray tragedy."

The federation is also calling for inspection blitzes to remind employers that safety rules will be enforced and more digital boards equipped with radar that let drivers know how fast they are going.

Howard said the government is open to making traffic signs clearer so drivers know when to slow down.

"What we need to figure out is whether that requires a legislative change or we can just do it," she said. "If it requires a legislative change, that's going to be a little more complicated and take more time.

"If we can just do it, then we're committed to making those signs as clear as possible."

— With files from CJOB