EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Drive smart, drive safely in work zones

2013-05-19T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Drive smart, drive safely in work zonesBy Bob Alderman nwitimes.com
May 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

With the arrival of the warm spring temperatures, you’re starting to see more yellow vests and orange cones and barrels throughout Northwest Indiana.

This year, INDOT has more than $45.5 million in projects planned for the Lake, Porter and LaPorte County areas – projects that will enhance safety, mobility and economic growth throughout the region.

But that construction activity comes with the potential for danger for INDOT workers, contractors and the motoring public if everyone is not careful.

Highway workers go about their duties while thousands of vehicles drive past at high speeds. To highlight this, INDOT recently produced a video to help people understand the dangers our workers face on a daily basis. You can watch it on the INDOT Northwest Facebook page.

It features a desk set up on the lanes of a highway and shows a car driving past at 70 miles per hour. The video is designed to help people understand when you speed past INDOT workers and contractors, you’re driving through their “office.”

Constructing roads is not an easy job. These projects require our crews to perform a balancing act of maintaining access for drivers, residents and businesses while giving our workers a safe place to do their job.

In urban and other high-traffic areas, our contractors work at night or during off-peak times to minimize traffic impacts. This can pose its own set of problems because the instances of drunk and drowsy driving increase at night.

But the danger isn’t just to the construction workers. Four out of every five deaths in highway work zones are drivers and their passengers. Last year, eight people were killed and more than 500 people were injured in Indiana highway work zones. The majority of these injuries and deaths are caused by rear-end collisions, following too closely or making improper lane changes. We don’t want to repeat those numbers in 2013.

This summer you’ll notice an increased police presence in our work zones. Indiana State Police are sometimes driving vehicles designed to look like construction pickups. These vehicles are twice as likely to catch people following too closely and eight times more likely to catch someone making an improper lane change in a construction zone.

Highway work zones – especially those with narrow lanes or changing traffic patterns – leave little room for error and require attentive, cautious driving habits. Never text or talk on the phone while driving, especially through a work zone. Several studies show drivers using a phone are four times more likely to be in a crash.

The bottom line is we’re asking everyone to slow down and plan ahead. INDOT is making use of different technology to help drivers “KNO B4 U GO.” Our TrafficWise website provides information on construction projects and detours. We’re also using dynamic message signs to get the word out. We’re working closely with local media, and we’re posting traffic information to the INDOT Northwest Facebook and Twitter accounts.

If we all work together, we can greatly reduce the number of accidents and injuries in Northwest Indiana this construction season.

Bob Alderman is deputy commissioner with the Indiana Department of Transportation LaPorte District, which serves Northwest Indiana. The opinions are the writer's.

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