Barrels of thanks to drivers for keeping work zones safe
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2018
Speeding, distracted driving and following too closely are the top three causes that kill not only workers but also motorists inside Oklahoma work zones. According to new information from law enforcement groups statewide, drivers are starting to turn the corner when it comes to work zone safety. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office joined forces this week to thank drivers for their life-saving efforts this past year.
Friday, OTA maintenance worker Jim LaRue discussed what it’s like to come back to work on the turnpike after suffering severe injuries in a work zone collision in 2016 on the Will Rogers Turnpike. He was joined by ODOT Kingfisher County Supervisor Larry Weber at a press event Friday. “Our job is dangerous,” Weber said. “We have to be alert and stay focused and we want to thank drivers for doing the same thing for us.”
Accident reports from the first half of 2017 show five people were killed and more than 230 people were injured in more than 180 collisions in Oklahoma work zones. These early numbers appear to show a decrease in work zone accidents from the previous year, where 18 people were killed and 302 people were injured in 242 collisions in Oklahoma work zones.
“We want to say a huge thanks to drivers for hearing our message about the life-changing and split-second consequences of being distracted or impaired when behind the wheel in a work zone,” Oklahoma Transportation Secretary and Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “While these numbers are still preliminary, we are hopeful these messages will continue to spread awareness and prevent work zone accidents.”
Earlier this week, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation joined with Gov. Mary Fallin, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office to launch a month-long safety campaign called Your Life Matters: Drive Like It. This messaging thanks drivers for remembering that they have the control behind the wheel and for driving safely not just to protect workers and other drivers but also themselves.
This critical safety message comes as warmer temperatures allow for increased maintenance and construction activities on highways and bridges during the spring and summer months.
Across the state, drivers will see new work zones and also changes inside ongoing projects like the I-235 Off-Broadway project in Oklahoma City. This $88 million project is entering its fourth major full-weekend closure starting tonight through April 9 to remove the old BNSF railroad bridge from over the interstate.
During this time, tens of thousands of drivers will be detoured across other metro highways. Drivers are urged to plan ahead for delays and to give their full attention to the road.
During this awareness month, activities will include:
- ODOT employees will be featured in social media campaigns on Facebook and YouTube, in partnership with the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, to help spread the word about the importance of paying attention in work zones.
- Safety messages displayed on outdoor billboards across the state, in partnership with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
- The SkyDance Bridge in Oklahoma City will glow orange the night of Monday, April 9, in honor of ODOT’s 60 fallen workers.
- ODOT’s ongoing Work Zone Wednesday campaign will feature safety messages on our metro interstates and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s overhead message boards through April.
- A symbolic display of white ribbons on the front lawn of the ODOT headquarters in Oklahoma City representing the number of people killed in work zones in the past five years, and four orange ribbons for the ODOT employees killed in the line of duty during that time.
With accident reports in work zones poised to decline statewide, the key causes of these crashes remain the same. Distracted driving, traveling at unsafe speeds and following other vehicles too closely are top contributors to work zone accidents.
The 2018 Your Life Matters: Drive Like It campaign is sponsored by the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and industry partners.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation Kingfisher County Maintenance Supervisor Larry Weber discusses how drivers can stay safe in work zones.
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority maintenance worker Jim LaRue tells the story of his work zone accident July 5, 2017 on the Will Rogers Turnpike. He recently returned to work after extensive recovery time and he urges drivers to put away distractions while behind the wheel.