ODOT Recognizes Work Zone Awareness

Representatives of transportation and law enforcement groups gathered recently in the Oklahoma City metro area and Tulsa, kicking off this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week. This year’s theme, “Drive to Survive: Double the Work Zones, Double the Risk,” emphasizes the need for drivers to put aside distractions, be alert and stay informed when driving through work zones.
Funding for road construction is doubled this year as a result of President Obama’s stimulus package, signed into law in February. Oklahoma’s transportation-related share of the stimulus package is nearly $465 million, providing much-needed improvements to Oklahoma’s roads, highways and bridges. Along with that funding comes double the number of work zones.
“With this funding we have the opportunity to improve the condition and safety of our roads and bridges. In the process, motorists will encounter additional work zones, which means they’ll need to be doubly careful about the safety of the workers, other drivers and themselves,” ODOT Director Gary Ridley said.
Over the past decade, 137 Oklahomans have been killed in work zones. Twenty-one people were killed in Oklahoma work zones in 2007, the most recent year of complete statistics, and 685 people were injured in 1,140 collisions – an alarming increase over 2006, when 16 people were killed and 399 were injured in 769 collisions. In Oklahoma, the most severe collisions resulted from following too closely, traveling at unsafe speeds and driver inattention, due in part to activities such as changing radio stations or talking on cell phones.
“Under Oklahoma law, speeding in a work zone is punishable by double the normal fine for the violation. We urge drivers to pay careful attention to their surroundings, the workers and other drivers,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Chris West said.
In addition, a law enacted last year allows for fines of up to $1,000 for moving violations in a work zone, $5,000 for endangering or injuring workers and up to $10,000 if a worker is killed.
To drive home the importance of safety in construction zones, Work Zone Awareness week sponsoring partners held press conferences in both the Oklahoma City metro area and Tulsa at locations overlooking areas expected to become construction zones due to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – along I-40 in Yukon and near the northwest corner of the Inner Dispersal Loop in Tulsa.
In addition, a weeklong display of 137 cones, representing the number of Oklahomans killed in work zones over the past decade, was erected today on the south steps of the State Capitol.
To emphasize the need for driving safely through work zones, Gov. Brad Henry signed a proclamation declaring April 6-10 as Work Zone Awareness Week in the state. The proclamation was presented March 30 at the ODOT Transportation Commission special meeting, when additional construction projects provided by the stimulus package were awarded.
Partnering with ODOT for Oklahoma’s 2009 Work Zone Awareness Week are the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, the Federal Highway Administration, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and The Associated General Contractors of Oklahoma.

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