Protecting drivers and workers, work zone safety tips for the summer

CENTRAL POINT, Ore.– Last Friday a construction flagger working on Table Rock Road was struck by a driver who police say was irritated by the traffic. While the flagger sustained only minor injuries, local agencies are reminding people about work zone safety, especially for the summer.

Everyone understands that getting through a construction zone may seem tedious and can definitely be aggravating to some as construction work causes some delays but when you’re driving a pile of metal, safety is the utmost importance. Not just for workers but for drivers as well.

Data collected in 2017 by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Safety Division show several startling statistics.

First off, on average, a work zone crash occurs every 18 hours in Oregon. Second, road workers are six times more likely to be injured or killed on the job compared to other professions. And third, in Oregon and nationally, 85 percent of work zone fatalities are drivers or their passengers.

“National studies have shown that basically driver distraction is the problem,” said John Vial, director of Jackson County Parks and Roads. “Speeding and other things can be a problem but driver distractions the problem and if there’s ever a place to pay attention, it’s in a work zone.”

That sentiment is echoed by officials from Knife River, the contracting company handling the construction on Table Rock Road. The flagger that was hit on Friday was one of their employees.

“This isn’t a game. We get that construction is frustrating, that waiting in line is a nuisance, that’s frustrating for us too,” said spokesperson Tony Spilde. “But it’s also critically important to control traffic flow.”

In order to ensure something like this doesn’t happen, ODOT suggests several safety tips for drivers:

  •  Orange is Your Clue! When you see orange signs, barrels, cones, and barricades – slow down and watch for highway workers.
  • Obey all speed zone signs. Speeds may be reduced for your safety and the safety of workers.
  • Double your following distance. Don’t tailgate.
  • Be Alert! Work Zones can have narrow lanes, closed lanes, closed shoulders and workers very close to live traffic.
  • When possible, move over for highway workers – Give workers more room between you and them.
  • Expect Delays — Plan for work zone delays. Leave earlier if you can. Be patient and drive safely through work zones.

“We’re trying to get done and get out of your way and so you’re going to have beautiful facile to drive on.”

This summer will see several major roadway projects take place ultimately making driving easier in the Rogue Valley.

But as things begin to heat, drivers should make sure they’re aware of any designated detours. If the construction traffic is unavoidable, make sure to take it easy and don’t become irritated. It could help to save a life.

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