Work zone awareness week stressing safety for construction season

In the midst of distracted driver awareness month, it is national work zone awareness week. Ohio Department of Transportation crews are reminding motorists to focus on driving.

"This is national work zone awareness week so we just remind motorists that as we transition from snow and ice season into construction season, that the number of work zones that they are going to see on the highway is going to increase," said Rhonda Pees, public information officer for ODOT District one. "So we just ask that they slow down and move over when they see our workers."

Last week ODOT kicked off construction season announcing plans for 2018. They have 42 projects planned for district one and that doesn’t include routine maintenance.

One ODOT crew member said he’s seen traffic numbers pick up over the years. He said it can be nerve wracking working in a high traffic environment, but it’s a team effort to stay safe.

"First thing in the morning we have our safety talks," Jake Mawhorr said, a crew leader for Allen County ODOT. "We get our plan together. Your team out here, everybody’s watching each other’s backs. One (pair of) eyes is not enough often times. Everybody’s taking care of each other out here once we’re out here."

Penalties for motorists in work zones also increase. Fines are doubled most of the time and other infractions could be more severe. There were 19 deaths in work zone accidents last year. Pees said of the fatalities in work zones last year almost all of them were motorists.

"As they say at the patrol, there’s zero tolerance for speeding within work zones because your reaction time is limited because you’re in a more congested area so you have to slow your speed," Pees said. "Most of the accidents we see in work zones are because people are following too closely."

Pees said the number of work zone accidents declined last year and she’d like to see that trend continue.