11/15/2013 01:18 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Manitoba government cracking down on speedy drivers in construction zones

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government has announced plans to crack down on motorists who speed in work zones, three years after a speeding driver crashed into and killed a young construction worker.

A bill before the legislature would do away with a provision that requires drivers to obey a reduced construction-zone speed limit only when workers are present.

"It'll be very clear. When the signs are up ... you have to slow down. And if you don't, there will be consequences," Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said Friday.

The change was welcomed by the family of 21-year-old Brittany Murray.

"You're in a construction zone. There's worker presence. Maybe you're not going to see them right at the time, but they can come out," said Murray's mother, Charlene Harrison.

Murray was a flag operator on Highway 207 east of Winnipeg on Oct. 18, 2010, when she was struck and killed by Mitchell Blostein. The road had a normal speed limit of 90 kilometres an hour, but Blostein had passed construction zone signs, including one that stated "maximum 60 km/h when passing workers."

Blostein's trial was told that he had been driving 112 km/h. But he was acquitted of dangerous driving causing death earlier this year, essentially because Murray was the first worker Blostein came across.

"The accused was not to exceed 60 km/h only if there were workers in the immediate vicinity of the location where he was driving," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Doug Abra wrote in his decision.

"According to the evidence before me, Ms. Murray was flagging at a location that was some distance away from the actual construction work."

The proposed law would require motorists to obey the reduced speed limit, regardless of whether workers are present. It also has a clause that allows for a second, lower speed limit zone that could vary depending on the time of day or presence of workers.

The bill would increase fines for speeding in a construction zone so that they are double the fines for speeding in a non-construction zone.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said Friday they had yet to take a position on the bill.

"That's something that we're going to have to take under review and see what is done in other provinces to make sure it will work in Manitoba," Tory justice critic Reg Helwer said.

Ashton said most other provinces and states have the uniform reduced speed limit that Manitoba is eyeing.