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Governor DeWine announces new initiative to prevent work zone crashes

Ohio Governor's Office, Press Release

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine joined Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Superintendent Col. Charles Jones and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks to announce a new initiative to reduce crashes in work zones.

"Drivers are expected to slow down and pay attention in work zones, yet unsafe driving in road construction areas continues to be a serious problem," said Governor DeWine. "I've asked the Ohio State Highway Patrol to dedicate more resources to patrolling work zones, and troopers will have no tolerance for reckless drivers. We're doing this not only to protect road workers but for the safety of all travelers."

The enhanced enforcement will include more troopers, including motorcycle units, monitoring work zones on the ground and increased use of OSHP's Aviation Unit to spot dangerous drivers from the air. Troopers will target crash-causing violations, such as exceeding the speed limit, driving impaired, driving distracted and otherwise driving recklessly in work zones.

"As our thoughts turn to warmer temperatures, graduations, family vacations and trips to the ball fields, it is important to remember the vital message that moving over, slowing down, and paying attention to flashing lights can and does save lives," said Col. Jones. "The Patrol is fully committed to identifying and addressing dangerous behaviors such as distracted driving and unsafe speed within work zones."

There are currently more than 500 active road construction zones in Ohio, with around 950 additional road projects planned before the end of the summer. OSHP and ODOT are coordinating to ensure that each work zone experiences increased enforcement, with a particular focus on long-term work zone sites where crashes and reckless driving are frequent.

Priority Work Zones are:

I-70 - Muskingum County
I-77 -  Summit County
I-475 - Lucas County
I-280 - Lucas County
I-90 - Cuyahoga County
SR 32 - Brown County 
I-71 - Clinton/Fayette counties
I-75 - Montgomery County
I-75 - Auglaize County
I-75 - Hancock County.

Since 2019, there have been nearly 26,000 work zone crashes with more than 9,000 people hurt, many seriously. Ninety-nine people have been killed in work zone crashes during the same time period, including nine road workers.

"All I can ask of you is that you please slow down, pay attention, put your phone down, and realize that these accidents happen in a split second," said Dana King, whose 21-year-old son Alex was killed in 2021 while working in a construction zone in Butler County. "One small distraction can cause a lifetime of devastation. You never think it can happen to you until it happens to you."

"When you arrive at a highway work zone, please be patient and aware of the surroundings all around the work zone," said Linda Cook, whose husband Steve was killed in 2017 while working in a construction zone in Columbus. "Please be kind and try to respect all the highway workers because, at the end of the day, they just want to go home to their families as well."

As part of this road safety initiative, ODOT is putting increased focus on educating the public about the overall importance of moving over when passing those working along the side of the road. An Ohio peace officer, firefighter, road worker, and tow truck driver are featured in the new "Not Just a Roadside Worker" campaign, which emphasizes that those working alongside the road are also husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends and neighbors. When passing any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road, Ohio's Move Over Law requires drivers to cautiously shift over one lane or slow down if changing lanes is not possible.
“Whether they are in a work zone or responding to an incident, roadside workers need your help to keep them safe. Please move over and slow down, but above all pay attention,” said Director Marchbanks.

The increase in work zone enforcement is in addition to several other initiatives underway by ODOT to prevent crashes in road construction sites, including the launch of a new queue detection program, the addition of rumble strips in certain work zones to alert drivers to slow down, and the piloting of technology that allows workers to remotely place and remove orange construction zone barrels.

The peak of road construction season coincides with the "100 Deadliest Days of Summer," which stretches between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. During this time period, fatal crashes usually spike due to an increase in traffic. In 2023, nearly 400 people died in crashes between the end of May and the beginning of September.

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