Get ready for the orangest summer in state history. Oregon will have more than 165 active work zones on state highways – a record number – so drivers need to be prepared to slow down and pay attention.
According to Rosalee Senger, regional traffic safety coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation, highway work zones can be especially hazardous, and more so for motorists and passengers than for workers.
“Nearly all crashes are preventable,” Senger said. “Drivers need to treat work zones as places to slow down and pay extra attention.”
Even if you don’t see anyone working in a work zone, it’s still important to slow down because traffic lanes are often narrow, rough and have little or no shoulder in a work zone.
The majority of people injured or killed in work zone crashes are drivers, passengers or pedestrians, not workers. The single biggest factor in crashes is driver inattention; that’s why orange cones, variable message signs and other tools are used to alert motorists. The other major contributing factor is speed, which is why work zones often require lower speed limits.
“We refer to these incidents as crashes not accidents,” said Senger. “Most vehicle crashes are the result of choices – choosing to follow too close, not paying attention, driving under the influence, and so on.
“Drivers should take the color orange as their cue to slow down and pay extra attention in these work zones.”
The following tips will help you safely travel through a work zone:
• The most important action drivers can take is to pay complete attention to the driving task, especially in the transition zone before the work area.
• Reduce your speed when you see orange signs, barrels and barricades.
• Double your following distance. Don’t tailgate.
• Move over as soon as safely possible. Don’t wait until the last moment to get in the correct lane.
• Remember, work zone traffic lanes often are narrow, without shoulders or emergency lanes.
• Be aware of temporary construction accesses on either side of the roadway.
• Expect delays. In fact, plan ahead before you leave by calling 511 or visiting www.TripCheck.com.
• Be as courteous to other drivers as you’d like them to be to you.
Senger said drivers should also remember that two new laws went into effect last January: the ‘Move Over’ law and the ban on mobile communications without a hands-free device.
The Move Over law requires a motorist to move over to another lane if there is an emergency vehicle on the shoulder with its lights flashing. If you cannot move over safely, you are required to slow down. The new law adds tow trucks and roadside assistance vehicles to the list of emergency vehicles. In addition, the law clarifies that “slow down” means slowing down to at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit.
The mobile communications law specifically prohibits drivers from using such a device for talking or texting while driving unless the driver meets a specific exemption. Those in violation face a minimum fine of $142 (a Class D violation).
Summer 2010 Road Project Map available
Want to know where and when you may encounter orange cones and work zones as you travel around the state this summer? ODOT is distributing the Summer 2010 Road Projects map so motorists can plan ahead and be prepared.
The construction map is a helpful guide for general information about construction activity on state highways. Oregon will have more than 165 active work zones on state highways this summer.
The Summer 2010 Road Projects map is available at locations around the state, including Driver and Motor Vehicle Services offices, truck stops, welcome centers, and ODOT offices.
You can also download the map online at www.oregon.gov/ODOT/
Make your summer travel safe
Plan Ahead — Give yourself plenty of extra time. Construction zones, traffic jams, or other incidents can add delays. That extra time will help cut down on excessive speeding and tailgating.
Pay Attention — Eliminate distractions ahead of time. Be sure important items — directions and maps, sunglasses — are within easy reach. Make sure you use a hands-free device with your cell phone.
Bring a Friend — It is well recognized that when driving alone, especially when sleep deprived and at night, your chances of a crash are dramatically increased.
Practice Safety — Make sure everyone is properly buckled. If traveling with children, educate yourself on child safety seats and restraints. Children age 12 and
under should always be in the back seat.
Clear Your Head — Alcohol can severely impair your driving skills but so can many types of over-the-counter and prescription medications. Read the label. Obey the warnings.
Keep a Safe Distance — Maintain a following distance of at least two seconds. Add an additional second for each adverse driving condition, such as rain showers or night-time driving.
Watch for Signs of Fatigue — If you start feeling tired, let someone else drive. If you are driving alone, pull into a rest stop or another safe location and take a short nap or walk around for a few minutes. Stop as often as necessary. Eat light on long trips. Large, heavy meals can make you drowsy.
What to do when your car breaks down
What can you do to avoid the potential for disaster when your car stalls on the highway? Your first concern must be your safety and the safety of your passengers.
The following safety tips will help when your car breaks down:
• Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage on the spot. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out.
• If you can’t drive the car, it may still be safer to stay in the car and wait for help or use a cell phone to summon help. Standing outside the vehicle in the flow of traffic, under most circumstances, is a bad idea.
• Carry flares or triangles to mark your location once you get to the side of the road. Marking your vehicle’s location to give other drivers advance warning of your location can be critical. Remember to turn on your hazard lights.
• In the case of a blowout or a flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repair — even if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim or wheel is minor compared to a fatal injury.
• Roadside tragedies remind us of the importance of having wide shoulders or safe places immediately available for motorists to use when they need them. When safe places are not readily available, motorists should move their vehicles to the nearest safe pull-off area.