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Reminder to be cautious around construction zones

Orange work-zone barrels are appearing all around us, and while construction projects often can lead to traffic delays, we remind everyone about the importance of driving safely through construction zones.

That’s the message being shared once again during National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, an annual event designed to remind drivers to be patient, slow down and pay attention in road construction areas. This year’s event runs through this Friday.

Statistics from across our region show just how dangerous work zone accidents can be.

Ohio, for example, has recorded more than 32,500 crashes in work zones since 2015, with 126 people being killed in 114 of those accidents. Law enforcement has issued more than 72,500 citations during that period, with 34 percent of those being for driving 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, in 2019 there were 1,754 work zone crashes, resulting in 16 fatalities. In the last 52 years, 89 PennDOT employees have died while on the job.

And, in West Virginia, the last five years have seen 1,794 crashes in work zones. Those accidents are blamed for 15 deaths, 509 injuries and 1,270 report of property damage.

It isn’t just major construction projects that create safety concerns. State, county and local highway workers often are seen on the side of roads while making minor improvements. Throughout the region, traffic laws require motorists to move over a lane for all roadside workers. If they cannot move over, drivers should slow down.

Everyone is on a tight schedule and in a hurry to get from here to there, and that can make a construction zone frustrating. Riding right behind the bumper of the vehicle in front of you, however, won’t result in a quicker trip.

Traffic slows in construction zones for a reason. Construction vehicles often pull onto and off highways, and here workers and heavy equipment operate sometimes just feet from the open lanes of travel.

Drivers have to be alert when traveling through a work zone, and that means allowing enough distance between vehicles so a sudden stop can be made without a collision.

Flaggers and construction zone signs warn and advise motorists of what to expect in work zones. Remember to heed their warnings and follow all posted speed limits — speeding violations in construction zones are several times more expensive than an ordinary ticket.

Area residents like to complain about the condition of roads and bridges. We ask everyone to remember that work is under way to make needed repairs and improvements — and patience and safe driving go hand-in-hand with the summer road construction season.

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