Work zone safety requires everyone's attenton

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It's Work Zone Safety Month: Pay attention, slow down and expect delays

May 4, 2021

For more information, contact Katherine Benenati 503-871-0388.

The color orange is supposed to grab your attention – and in work zones that can mean the difference between life and death.

As we mark Work Zone Safety Month, it’s important to remember to slow down and expect delays whenever you see orange signs, barrels, cones and barricades in work zones and the transition areas leading to them.

We use a number of technologies including automated flagging devices, mobile barriers and portable message signs to make work zones safer as we build a modern transportation system.

But we can’t do it alone.

“Keep your eyes on the road, put down your cell phones and pay extra attention in our work zones," said Karen Rowe, ODOT’s Delivery and Operations Division Administrator.  “We work hard to make sure you are safe while traveling on our roads and we are asking that you do the same for the many ODOT employees and contractors who call the road their office.”

An inattentive driver is the most common cause of work zone crashes. And those crashes have consequences.

Each year between 2014 and 2018 in Oregon:

  • An average of 535 people were injured in work zone crashes.
  • An average of 27 people were killed or seriously injured in work zone crashes.
  • An average of five people (including one worker) died as a result of work zone crashes.

These types of crashes are preventable.

Drivers can do their part by limiting distractions, obeying speed signs, and moving over when it's safe to do so to give workers more room. Work zone traffic lanes are often narrow, without shoulders or emergency lanes meaning there’s less room for error. And remember: fines doubles in all Oregon work zones, whether or not workers are present.

While May is the traditional start of construction season, work that doesn’t require good weather can occur year round. Many projects are done at night when travelers may not expect to see workers.

Drivers can expect to see different technologies in work zones depending on whether they’re in a rural or more urban area.

For instance on two-lane highways, you may see automated flagging devices. Those look like small traffic signals minus the green light, and have a crossing arm that drops down to block traffic when the lane is closed. Trained flaggers can operate them from a safer distance.

Along freeways, drivers are more likely to see mobile barriers, which are similar to concrete barriers but can be moved relatively quickly. They are built into a semi-truck trailer and mounted on wheels.

We also use intelligent transportation system technology to monitor traffic flow and keep drivers in the know. These technologies, typically used on freeways, can make work zones safer by reducing crashes and minimizing delay.

Examples include portable changeable message signs that alert drivers of delays, stopped traffic ahead and more, and Dynamic Late Merge systems that allow drivers to use open lanes until they need to merge. Such systems increase traffic volumes through the work zone by shortening the queue.

No matter where you’re headed, drivers can plan ahead by calling 511 or visiting to check routes, work zones and road and weather conditions before heading out.