Several years ago, ODOT and our partners established a team to take an in-depth look at work zone safety. More than 26 leaders from the construction and trucking industries, law enforcement, federal and state government, and other interested people came together to examine current practices and look for new ways to keep workers and travelers safe. Several subcommittees met over more than a year and the resulting improvements in engineering, education and enforcement are having a positive impact on work zone safety.
This page offers some information about those improvements as well as resources the traveling public, employers and others may find valuable.
Provide educational material
During the construction season, in addition to the traditional public services announcements, billboards, ads and news stories that ODOT coordinates, the group developed and distributed a series of articles about work zone safety targeted at the construction industry, ODOT employees, law enforcement and other partners.
Safety and mobility can coexist
The Safety/Mobility task group recommended several actions including drafting a strong statement (guiding principle) that emphasizes balance between mobility and worker safety.
Law enforcement resources are a top issue
For the Law Enforcement task group, the top two issues identified were resources/staffing and presence, which include looking at alternatives to officer presence such as photo radar lights.
“Everyone agreed that more enforcement was needed, especially outside of the larger cities,” said Captain Dave Anderson with Oregon State Police. “Staffing shortages make it difficult for Oregon State Police and local law enforcement agencies to meet some work zone commitments.”
Solutions discussed include increasing funding and staffing for law enforcement agencies, decreasing or eliminating the fund match requirement for federal grants, developing a statewide method for prioritizing projects that need enhanced law enforcement for work zone safety and addressing barriers in how funding is distributed. For example, federal work zone safety enforcement funds usually can’t be spent on maintenance projects.
Updated engineering approach
The Engineering subcommittee came up with five recommendations:
- Improve clarity around requirement to use traffic control supervisors as a bid item
- Better construction sign management
- Changing the look of some construction signs
- Mounting radar speed reader boards on moving vehicles in the work stream
- Use smart work zone devices to improve information and driver messages
Looking for new ways to reach out
The single biggest cause of work zone crashes is driver inattention. The other major contributing factor is speed. If drivers pay attention and obey posted speeds in work zones, safety increases for everyone. But, as we all know, people don’t always make the best choices when they’re driving.
But you can! Help us spread the word by checking out the Work Zone Safety website and being alert whenever you are behind the wheel, on a motorcycle or bicycle, or on foot. We want everyone to get home safely.