COLUMBUS — Weather is warming up and soon you’ll notice more orange barrels on Ohio roads. In an effort to keep roadside workers safe, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Transportation are joining other state and local transportation agencies to mark National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.
“Just like Ohio’s drivers, road construction workers want to make it home safe at the end of each day,” said DeWine. “Accidents in construction zones are fully preventable when drivers use caution and slow down; doing so could save a life.”
Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson this week was joined by local officials, construction workers, and families of highway work zone victims at the kickoff event for the 2019 National Work Zone Awareness Week.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility, so please focus 100 percent on driving, be sober, be considerate of road workers and other road users and, please, obey the posted speed limits,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
According to data from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, there were 25 work zone deaths in the state of Ohio in 2017.
Officials said the campaign’s theme, “Drive Like You Work Here,” underscores the importance of drivers staying alert and making safety a priority while driving through work zones. In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 799 fatalities in work zones, which is a two-percent increase from the previous year.
Fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks or buses increased from 189 in 2016 to 222 in 2017. Speed was a factor in 29 percent of fatal work zone crashes that year, and 80 percent of work zone crash victims were drivers or passengers – not highway workers.
Last year, four construction workers, including ODOT employee John Pasko, were killed while working along our roads. They were among the 14 people killed in Ohio work zone crashes.
Since reaching a high in 2015, work zone crashes have been trending downward in our state. In 2018, there were a total of 4,662 crashes in work zones. The top factor continues to be following too closely. Nationally, speed is a factor in more than a quarter of all deadly work zone crashes.
“Drivers should always give their full attention to the road, but work zones require even more attention from drivers,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “Please keep our workers safe as they work to keep you safe.”
Ohio law requires motorists to move over a lane for all roadside workers. If they cannot move over, drivers should slow down.
Safety Tips for Driving in Work Zones
Plan ahead. Work zones account for an estimated 10 percent of overall congestion and nearly 24 percent of unexpected freeway delays. Expect delays, plan for them, and leave early to reach your destination on time. When you can, avoid work zones altogether by using alternate routes. You can find construction and traffic information at OHGO.com and with the OHGO app.
Obey road crews and signs. When approaching a work zone, watch for cones, barrels, signs, large vehicles, or workers in bright-colored vests to warn you and direct you where to go.
Slow down. Look for signs indicating the speed limit through the work zone. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you and follow the posted speed limit.
Move over. Ohio law mandates that you move over a lane when passing work crews, emergency vehicles, tow trucks, or any other vehicle parked on the shoulder with flashing warning lights.
Avoid distractions. Keep your eyes on the road and off your phone.
Watch for sudden stoppages. In 2017, 25 percent of fatal work zone crashes in the U.S. involved rear-end collisions. Watch for large vehicles. Don’t make sudden lane changes in front of trucks that are trying to slow down.