Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) today are calling on all Californians for their help in the ongoing effort to make highway work zones safer.
According to published reports, since September 16 four incidents, all of which were preventable, resulted in injuries to 15 persons:
On Sept. 16, a head-on collision between a passenger vehicle and a Caltrans truck on State Route 20 in Mendocino County sent both drivers and their passengers to the hospital with major injuries. The Caltrans workers had stopped to remove a dead deer from the roadway.
On Sept. 16, a contractor on flagging duty near State Route 191 in Butte County was struck by a vehicle and sustained major injuries. Authorities say the driver swerved to avoid another vehicle which had slowed down in front of them.
On Sept. 17, a CHP officer on Interstate 80 in Auburn positioned his cruiser into the path of a vehicle approaching a work zone at an estimated 65 mph. His intervention successfully blunted the vehicle’s approach, saving the life of a Caltrans worker who was removing debris from the roadway. The officer was knocked unconscious from the impact.
On Sept. 18, a big rig drove into a work zone on State Route 60 in Diamond Bar, injuring the driver, two Caltrans workers, and six members of a crew of court-ordered community service workers who were picking up roadside litter.
“Every day, highway workers put their lives in danger just by going to work,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These incidents are a sobering reminder that we all must do everything we can to keep our highways safe. Motorists must slow down, watch out for highway workers and safely move over a lane when passing work crews.”
Californians can help keep highways safe by slowing down in work zones and complying with the Move Over law, which took effect in 2007 and was amended in 2009 to add Caltrans vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights to the list of vehicles for which motorists must move over if safe to do so, or slow down.
Caltrans and the CHP work together in construction zones to monitor driver safety, and enforce the speed limit and the Move Over Law. When feasible, Caltrans allows an extra buffer lane between workers and vehicles in specific construction zones, so that workers previously separated only by orange cones have more space between themselves and oncoming vehicles.
“By moving over and slowing down, motorists can do their part to ensure the public, highway workers, and emergency personnel stay safe,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “The CHP will continue to work with Caltrans to ensure motorists are complying with the Move Over, Slow Down law.”
California has made significant strides in work zone safety since 1999 when Caltrans launched its Slow for the Cone Zone safety campaign. Since the inception of Slow for the Cone Zone, California’s work zone fatality rate has declined 56 percent compared to a drop of 32 percent nationally.
“Every day on every highway throughout the state, highway workers, emergency personnel, tow truck operators, and law enforcement risk their lives to make travel safer and more efficient,” said Chris Cochran, Assistant Director, Marketing and Public Affairs, California Office of Traffic Safety. “We can all help just by following the simple rule when we see flashing lights on the side of the road – Move Over, Slow Down.”
Highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Since the 1927, 180 Caltrans employees have died while on the job.