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ODOT marks National Work Zone Awareness Week

On Tuesday, during the Ohio Department of Transportation’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, a sign is displayed at the ODOT District 10 headquarters with the slogan “slow down and move over” which is the main theme of the week. (Photo by Kyle Nichols)

MARIETTA — The Ohio Department of Transportation is holding its 21 annual National Work Zone Awareness Week to remind drivers to be alert on the road.

Ashley Rittenhouse, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, said distracted driving is one of the biggest issues in work zone safety.

“The bottom line is that driving is a big responsibility and requires a lot of attention, but in particular in those work zones where people might encounter unexpected conditions,” Rittenhouse said. “They might come upon a traffic signal, have to take a detour, have to make a lane change or there might be a speed limit change. All those things can come up in a work zone.”

Tim Felton, a highway technician for the Ohio Department of Transportation, asks drivers to slow down and pay close attention in work zones.

“Watch for signs out there, and if we stop you, there is a good reason. We’re not just stopping traffic just because we can,” Felton said. “We’ve got equipment moving in and out of the road. Sometimes trees may fall in the road and limbs, and our technicians are moving back and forth within the lanes.”

The Move Over Law in Ohio is especially important to the safety of Ohio Department of Transportation personnel, Rittenhouse said.

“The Move Over Law in Ohio says that if you see flashing lights, whether that be ODOT or emergency personnel, or maybe even a tow truck driver, you are required to move over one more lane. If you can’t move over a lane, you must slow down,” Rittenhouse said. “That law is just really important for people to follow as they’re out there driving.”

To keep personnel safe in work zones, Felton said they use preventative measures like signage and crash trailers, but the public’s safe driving is the most effective way to keep crews out of harm’s way.

Rittenhouse said the Ohio Department of Transportation is constantly searching for ways to make the public and crews safer, like crash attenuators.

“It’s a partnership, and we need that cooperation from the traveling public to make workzones safe,” Rittenhouse said.

Felton’s request to the public was they remain alert so workers can get home to their families.

“We’re out there trying to make it safer for the public. Just, please, obey the signs, pay close attention to the workers, slow down and move over,” Felton said.

To avoid work zones altogether, Rittenhouse recommends downloading the Ohio Department of Transportation’s app called Ohgo. It shows real time construction updates and delays.

National Go Orange Day was created four years ago to draw attention to the importance of work zone safety in highway construction zones.

In West Virginia, the Transportation Department will hold a press conference recognizing National Go Orange Day at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Complex on the elevated stage between Building 3 and Building 5. Gov. Jim Justice earlier this month proclaimed April was Work Zone Safety awareness month.

“It isn’t enough just to check off the boxes and meet the minimum criteria,” Deputy Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston said. “Going above and beyond for Work Zone Safety means the signage, the flashing lights and other devices; it also means working with our partners in law enforcement, with the media and with the public.”

More than 50 West Virginia transportation workers have been killed in construction zones since the State Road Commission was created in 1921. Last year, 702 crashes occurred in West Virginia work zones, leading to 238 injuries and four deaths.

“Every work zone is concerning because of speeders,” said Matt Rowan, regional construction engineer for highway Districts 9 and 10, which includes the large-scale I-77 widening project in Beckley, where speeders have been clocked going up to 108 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. “When you’re in the work zone, the number of people on cell phones is unreal. They’ll have the phone in their hand or up on the steering wheel, sometimes they’re steering with their knees.”

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