Ohio Cracking Down on Work Zone Violators; 2004 Involved More than 6,000 Crashes

Ohio officials are taking a get tough approach with motorists who risk the lives of others by speeding through construction work zones.

Beginning April 15, the Ohio Department of Transportation was working with local law enforcement and the Ohio State Highway Patrol to enforce lower speeds and safer driving habits through eight major work zones across Ohio. The enforcement effort will continue throughout the construction season.

Sixteen other targeted work zones will receive special signing and speed trailers, which display motorists’ speeds. Each site will also be monitored closely to identify and respond to crash problems.

“Over the years, we’ve warned people of the lives lost and irrevocably changed by work zone crashes,” said ODOT Director Gordon Proctor. “But when appeals to the heart fail, we must appeal to the wallet. Motorists must ‘slow down or pay up’ when driving too fast or too aggressively in Ohio work zones.”

Although fines vary across the state, the maximum fine for speeding through a work zone is $300 plus court costs.

The enforcement effort was being kicked off nationally as part of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, which ran earlier this month. This year, motorists will encounter more than 900 ODOT work zones statewide.

Historically, work zone crashes have reportedly fluctuated greatly from year to year. In 2004, there were 6,389 work zone crashes in Ohio with 2,250 injuries and 14 deaths. In 2003, there were 7,409 work zone crashes with 2,504 injuries and 16 deaths, including two ODOT workers.

While construction and maintenance workers are at obvious risk, national studies indicate motorists and passengers are four times more likely to be injured or killed in work zones.

“Drivers have the most at stake when traveling through work zones,” said Proctor. “Yet they can also do the most to keep themselves and others safe by driving at lower speeds.”

ODOT says the most common causes of crashes are following too closely, failure to yield and speeding. Many work zone crashes occur at interchanges where motorists are merging onto the highway.

Proctor said ODOT does what it can to reduce crashes by reducing work zone congestion. The department spends about $30 million annually to maintain more lanes of traffic, speed the pace of construction and conduct more work on weekends and nights when fewer people are on the road.

In addition, ODOT employs full-time work zone managers to design and monitor work zones. The department is also testing new materials to make signs, pavement markings and other warning devices more visible at night or in wet conditions.

In 2004, the department began using speed trailers in work zones to get motorists’ attention, which will also be expanded this year.