COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Transportation is joining other departments of transportation across the country to mark National Work Zone Awareness Week. The week is set aside each year to remind drivers of the need to pay extra attention in work zones to keep both themselves and workers safe.
“It’s important that drivers remember to look out for the safety of our road crews as they work hard to keep our streets and highways safe,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “Paying attention, slowing down, and giving crews room to work are simple steps that all drivers can take to prevent tragedies in our work zones.”
Because everyone has a role to play in work zone safety, this year’s theme is “Work With Us.” The national event is being hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Nationally, 857 people, including 117 workers, were killed in 774 fatal work zone crashes in 2020, the most recent data available. In Ohio, there were 4,628 work zone-related crashes last year. Of those, 21 were deadly resulting in 23 deaths. Fortunately, no workers were killed. Our partners at the Ohio State Highway Patrol wrote 4,477 work zone citations in 2022 with 35% of them for speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.
What many fail to recognize is most people killed in work zone crashes are motorists and their passengers.
“Too many of these work zone crashes are the result of drivers not paying attention, speeding, or following the vehicle in front of them too closely,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “It is imperative that drivers give extra attention to the road in work zones and obey the speed limits and other signs so that everyone makes it home safe at the end of the day.”
Wednesday is Go Orange Day. The public is encouraged to wear orange to show awareness for work zone safety and support for road workers. Photos can be shared on social media using hashtag #NWZAW and #Orange4Safety.
Thursday will feature a push on social media. Organizations, companies, institutions, and individuals are asked to share messages and use hashtags #NWZAW and #WorkZoneSafety throughout social media between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET.
The week concludes with a moment of silence on Friday.
“I have a family that I want to go home to. It takes just a few extra seconds to move over or slow down,” said Tim Felton, a highway technician at ODOT’s Washington County Garage.
In April 2002, Steve Lafferty was working with an ODOT crew along State Route 115 near U.S. 30 in Allen County when he was hit by a truck that went off the road to avoid traffic stopped by a flagger at the work zone.
“We were almost at the end of the day, maybe 15 or 20 minutes,” Lafferty recalled. “He was just going at such a high rate of speed that we had no time to react.”
Lafferty survived with critical injuries, but never returned to work at ODOT.
“I loved my job at ODOT. It was the best job I ever had,” Lafferty said. “To not be able to continue doing that, that’s a hard pill to swallow.”
The last ODOT employee killed on the job, John Pasko, was hit on March 15, 2018 while clearing brush along I-680 in Mahoning County. His is the 162nd name added to the ODOT Worker Memorial.