Work Zones

Drivers Share Responsibility for Work Zone Safety

April 3, 2006

(COLUMBUS) — The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) participates in Work Zone Safety Awareness Week (WZSAW) each year in order to save lives and prevent injuries in work zones.

The theme for the 2006 WZSAW campaign is Working at the Speed of Night. Many states, including Ohio, are now completing construction work at night in order to reduce congestion and inconvenience fewer motorists. Of Ohio’s 45 interstate improvement projects and five mega projects for 2006, all include at least a portion of night work. “Although traffic volumes are lower at night, so is visibility,” ODOT Assistant Director Richard Martinko said. “Drivers need to stay alert and expect the unexpected when driving through work zones at night.”

In Ohio, there were 6,389 work zone crashes in 2004. Of those crashes, 14 people were killed and 2,250 people were injured. In 2005, there were 5,854 work zone crashes with 20 fatalities and 2,076 injuries. While overall work zone accidents and injuries have gone down, fatalities have gone up. ODOT continues to expand its efforts to make work zones safer, but these efforts can only go so far.

“ODOT studies work zones extensively and spends additional funds each year on extra signs and warning devices to increase safety in work zones,” said ODOT Director Gordon Proctor. “But motorists who exercise caution and good judgment make the largest impact on reducing work zone crashes.”

An analysis of Ohio work zone crashes from 2001–2005 revealed the number one cause of work zone crashes was following too closely. Other causes include failure to control, improper lane change, failure to yield, driver inattention and excessive speed, making motorist error the number one cause of work zone crashes by an overwhelming majority.

Last year, ODOT spent $35 million to reduce work zone congestion and accidents by: conducting more work at night and on weekends when fewer motorists use the roadway; rewarding contractors for early completion and penalizing them for delays and maintaining two lanes in each direction on the interstates during peak hours whenever possible. ODOT will continue to use these methods to reduce congestion and accidents in work zones.

ODOT is also continuing a pilot program in 2006 to closely monitor and add increased law enforcement to work zones around the state. In 2005, work zones with increased law enforcement had a 17.7 percent lower crash rate than those without increased law enforcement. In addition, by closely monitoring work zone crash patterns in real time, ODOT is working to respond to crash problems quickly and do everything possible on its end to reduce the likelihood of work zone crashes.

To do their part, when driving in work zones, motorists can increase safety by following these guidelines:

  • Stay alert and give driving your full attention.
  • Follow all posted signs and obey flaggers.
  • Don’t tailgate or speed; Most crashes in work zones are rear-end collisions.
  • Expect the unexpected; Work zones are changing environments.
  • Be aware that normal traffic patterns may be shifted.

Every year more than 1,000 people nationwide — both motorists and highway workers — are injured or killed in work zone crashes. In 2004, the most recent year for which complete nationwide statistics are available, 1,068 people died in work zone crashes.

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