COLUMBUS - Everyone deserves to get home safely.
National Work Zone Awareness Week, in its 21st year, is a national public awareness campaign that spreads the message that we are all responsible for work zone safety. The Ohio Department of Transportation joined several other partners in safety to kick the week off with an event at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Monday's event featured an ODOT truck that was struck by a semi-truck on March 2. Allen County crews were sweeping the bridge decks at night on I-75 just south of SR 81 in Lima. Caleb Vorhees was in the truck hauling the arrow board and was on the side of the road, right of the white line. A semi left the driving lane, hitting the driver’s side doors. The semi bounced off and came to rest in the median. Vorhees, who is married and the father of two young children, suffered bruises and burns from the impact of the truck and side airbags as well as seatbelt injuries across his chest. He was off the job for two weeks due to his injuries.
ODOT crews were struck 125 times last year and have already been hit more than 60 times this year.
“These men and women are working to ensure transportation in Ohio is safe for all travelers,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “All they ask in return is for drivers to pay attention and give them the room they need to get this important work done.”
Despite lower traffic volumes in 2020 due to the global pandemic, there were 4,540 crashes in Ohio work zones. Eighteen of those crashes were deadly, resulting in 19 deaths. Following another vehicle too closely is by far the top factor in work zone crashes.
"Driving requires all of your attention, but work zones require even more," said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks. "Things can change quickly and if you're not paying attention the risk of a crash skyrockets."
Statistics from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse show there were 762 fatal crashes in work zones across the United States resulting in 842 deaths in 2019. In addition, 135 roadway workers were killed in work zones in 2019. The vast majority of people killed were motorists, passengers and pedestrians.
"We all need to realize that the speed limit is in place to protect our lives. We have members working on our roadways every day and they have the right to get home safely to their families and not have the worry of being injured or killed by someone speeding, driving impaired, texting, or just not paying attention. We all share in the responsibility of keeping the men and women working in and driving through our highway work zones safe," said Ralph Cole, business manager and secretary treasurer of the Laborers' District Council of Ohio.
"Each Spring, hundreds of experienced contractors and their dedicated workers begin the arduous and hazardous task of building, rehabbing and maintaining Ohio’s highways, roads and bridges. It is a job that requires years of professional training, meticulous planning, and attention to detail. In return, we ask only that the traveling public slow down in our work zones, pay attention to signs and directions, and don't text and drive," said Mark Potnick, Director of Labor Relations & Safety Affairs for the Ohio Contractors Association.
In an effort to make work zones in Ohio safer, ODOT has teamed up with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for more targeted areal traffic enforcement inside select work zones around the state. Last year, 7,378 citations were handed out in work zones around the state with 49 percent of those citations being for speed in excess of 20 mph over the posted speed limit.
“Ohio’s work zones are a top priority for the Patrol, making sure that everyone has a safe driving and working environment,” said Colonel Richard S. Fambro, Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent. “Troopers are committed to making work zones safer through focused enforcement and taking dangerous drivers off the roadway.”
National Work Zone Awareness Week is an annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season encourages safe driving through highway work zones. The key message is for drivers to use extra caution in work zones.
Wear orange on Wednesday to provide a visible reminder and to show your support for the families who have lost loved ones in work zone crashes.
This year, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is hosting the kick-off event on April 27 with the theme, “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.” If we ALL work together, we can achieve zero deaths on our roads and in our work zones.