ODOT pushes work zone safety

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The statistics are sobering, the threat is real, and virtually all residents have to do to prevent it … is slow down.

There were some 5,854 work zone crashes in Ohio, 14 of which were fatal. Nationally, there is an average of one work zone fatality every seven hours, and one injury every fifteen minutes.

Although Work Zone Safety Awareness Week may have ended on Sunday, the Ohio Department of Transportation is still looking to lower that number locally by spreading the word about slowing down when there are men and women at work.

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Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 spokeswoman, said that most of these wrecks are cause by people zooming through a work zone that they believe to be uninhabited.

“A lot of our accidents are mostly speed related,” Fuller said. “A lot of people think that if they don’t see something going on they can just keep going the posted speed limit, not the reduced speed limit. But that’s not the case. It’s the speed limit reduction for the life of the project.”

And according to ODOT statistics, work zone injuries are not just a problem in the big cities where construction projects are legion. In Lawrence County, the number of work zone crashes that caused injury totaled 16 in 2005.

In addition to slowing down in work zones, ODOT is also urging motorists to avoid tailgating — most work zone accidents are read-end collisions, remain alert while driving and to be patient in work zones.

Fuller said this message is especially important in the schools, where she’s been distributing informative packets, and guides for new drivers. Although, she said, there are a lot of good teen drivers, many still have lessons to learn.

“A lot of it is inexperience,” Fuller said. “It’s an exciting time when you first get your license, but to be cautious you have to be very alert and very patient. I know they’re being taught this in driver’s education classes, but how much they really retain is another question.

“The more driving time you have, the more things you see on the roadways you’re going to become more aware.”

This push for work zone safety comes at the beginning of the construction season, which will peak later in the summer. But Fuller said she hopes that people will keep the message in mind all year long.