Orange cones on Oregon roads mean one thing: work zone ahead. And with that knowledge comes the reminder to motorists to SLOW DOWN, pay attention to work zone signing and watch for roadway workers. The 2008 National Work Zone Awareness Week runs April 7 – 11 with the theme, “Slow Down for the Cone Zone.” In Oregon, work zone safety messages run year-round on buses, billboards and on radio and TV stations. But it won’t be enough until the state experiences no more fatalities, injuries and crashes in work zones.

“This spring and summer, we’ll continue to see record levels of highway and bridge work. And that means we must continue to remind motorists to pay attention and slow down in work zones,” said Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett.

In Oregon, preliminary 2007 numbers show an increase in fatalities over 2006, from five to 11. None of those who died were construction workers; all were either drivers or passengers in motor vehicles.

“People are surprised to learn that most of the people who die in work zone crashes are in a car, not on the road working,” said Anne Holder, Roadway Safety Program manager for ODOT.

The single biggest factor in crashes is driver inattention, and that’s why orange cones, variable message signs and other tools are used to alert motorists. The other contributing factor is speed, which is why work zones either require or encourage lower speed limits.

Increased enforcement in work zones also helps improve safety. ODOT provides grant funding every year to police agencies statewide for these efforts. Last month, Oregon State Police focused on a recently completed work zone on U.S. 26 near Welches. Officers worked 143.5 overtime hours putting extra troopers in the area during which they issued a total of 282 citations and 84 warnings. Of those, nearly 88 percent (239) were for speed violations as high as 89 mph in a 55 mph speed zone and 80 mph in a 45 mph speed zone. One driver arrested for DUII had a .21% blood alcohol level.

For the past several years, ODOT has been educating drivers and encouraging safety in work zones by promoting the slogan, “Slow down. Better roads ahead.” For more information and tips on safe driving, visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/workzonesafety.shtml.

Tips for staying safe in the “Cone Zone”

* Pay complete attention to driving. The most important thing drivers can do is focus on the driving task, especially in the transition zone before the work area.
* Orange is your clue. Slow down when you see orange signs, barrels and barricades. Speeding is the second most common factor in work zone crashes.

* Don’t tailgate. Instead, double your following distance.

* Move over to the correct lane well in advance of the work zone.
* Leave early to reach your destination on time.
* You may experience delays in work zones – plan for them!
* Be patient.Be courteous to other drivers so you all arrive safely.
* Avoid work zones when you can by using an alternate route.

You can learn about construction updates, road conditions, traffic and more by calling 5-1-1 or visiting www.TripCheck.com.

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