State transportation officials are talking up work zone safety this week, reminding drivers to use additional care around orange barrels, for their own safety as well as that of workers.
J.P. Blackwood works for the Columbus organization Paving The Way:
“It’s the time of year when the orange barrels are sprouting and road construction is getting ready to rumble,” Blackwood says.
And that means that cars and highway construction workers will come precariously close to each other. Two Ohio construction workers were killed in work zone accidents in 2003. In 2008, 15 motorists died in work zone crashes on state of Ohio roadways. City of Columbus Construction Coordinator Timothy Swauger says accidents happen when drivers aren’t paying attention.
“They are looking at other distractions and therefore they’re not merging properly,” Swauger says. “They’re driving right up to the last second and then they’re trying to force themselves in and if the other driver doesn’t let them get in, then they’re entering our work zones and that’s where the danger is for our workers.”
Columbus Police Lieutenant Ed Devennish says there are a few deterrents that reduce the number of work zone accidents.
“I think having an officer present and making sure people understand that we will write citations,” Devennish says. “We don’t give warnings in construction zones, not as a general rule. If you want a warning here it is: Don’t let me catch you screwing up in a construction zone.”
City of Columbus Project inspector Drew Sheffield says he’s seen numerous instances where drivers actually enter the work area that’s cordoned off by orange barrels. He has this advice for drivers:
“When you’re in a work zone, it’s not the time to be jockeying for lanes, talking on the phone or pushing the speed limit because when a vehicle and a worker meet, the worker is always the loser,” Sheffield says. “So take your time, keep your eyes open, and watch for the workers in green or yellow vests.”
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