ODOT Van Wert County crews crack seal U.S. 30 with Ohio State Highway Patrol in the work zone. Troopers coordinate enforcement with the Ohio Department of Transportation to increase safety for everyone. (Photo submitted)
ODOT Van Wert County crews crack seal U.S. 30 with Ohio State Highway Patrol in the work zone. Troopers coordinate enforcement with the Ohio Department of Transportation to increase safety for everyone. (Photo submitted)

LIMA — For the annual spring campaign, National Work Zone Awareness Week, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) came together recently to urge drivers to use extra caution in work zones, out on U.S. 30 where Van Wert crews were crack sealing pavement.

“Crews are out here every day working to make the roads safe for everyone,” said Mark Zielke, Van Wert County transportation manager. “All they ask in return is for drivers to make the work zone safe for them. Pay attention, move over when possible, and slow down, so they can do their job and go home,” he said.

Already this year, with construction season barely underway, there have been 667 work zone crashes, three fatalities, and 60 ODOT crew strikes.

“Work zone safety is such an important issue,” said Jenifer Dick, Allen County highway technician, when speaking about a crew strike on Interstate 75 that occurred last month. “Put down the distractions, the phones, the computers, anything. Just put it down. We all want to go home at night,” she said.

On March 2, Dick on working with crews sweeping bridge decks on I-75 just south of State Route 81 in Lima. They had almost completed the bridge when a semi struck the truck of Caleb Vorhees which was hauling the arrow board. He was parked on the side of the road, right of the white line. The 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. The truck Caleb was driving was featured during an ODOT Work Zone Awareness event on Monday, in Columbus.

Despite lower traffic volumes in 2020, there were 4,540 crashes, 19 fatalities, and 125 ODOT crew strikes in Ohio’s work zones.

This construction season ODOT and OSHP are continuing to coordinate to make work zones safer for roadway workers. The OSHP is providing targeted traffic enforcement inside work zones and assistance in the air via the Patrol’s Aviation Section. Last year, 49% of the 7,377 citations issued were for speed more than 20 mph over the posted limit.

“The work zones are a dangerous place for employees. Troopers will be in the zone, watching for unsafe driving, speeding, and violations of the move over/slow down law,” said Sergeant Adam Brincefield, OSHP assistant Van Wert post commander. “This year work zone enforcement will again be a top priority to provide a safe driving environment for everyone,” he said.

Most people killed in work zones are motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. 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.

In 2020, OSHP unveiled a Work Zone Dashboard which provides up-to-date statistics on Ohio’s work zones and a look at how troopers are working to them safer. Since 2016, more than 54,000 citations have been issued. Of those, 37% were for speeds in excess of 20 mph over the posted limit.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is an annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season that 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) hosted 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.