News

Recent crashes shed light on importance of work zone safety

February 19, 2021 - Statewide News - Motorists stay alert and be attentive while driving past road crews

STATEWIDE – Crashes in work zones are on the rise across the State of Colorado. According to preliminary data gathered by the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol, there were 14 traffic fatalities in construction zones, up from eight in 2019. Twelve of the 2020 fatalities occurred in the Denver metro area, far higher than the three fatalities from the year prior.  

“Two attenuator trucks were struck this month by motorists while crews were out performing maintenance activities,” said CDOT Director of Maintenance and Operations John Lorme. “CDOT is serious about safety and we need motorists to make safety their top priority, as well. We frequently see excessive speeds, distracted driving and drunk driving while our crews are performing critical maintenance work.” 

Attenuator trucks are designed to save lives in work zones. They absorb the impact of a high or low speed crash, decrease damage made to the vehicle and save workers’ lives. Motorists should remember that even with this protective equipment there are people within these trucks and it is still critical to slow down and move over.  

“When you see flashing amber lights on our equipment you are entering a work zone, whether it’s in motion like a snow plow or stationary like you’d see while crews are repairing guardrail or filling potholes,” said Lorme. “You will not see permanent signage indicating that you are entering a work zone when it comes to maintenance activities, that’s why motorists need to stay alert and aware while driving. You could be entering a work zone at any time.”

While some motorists may not realize it, snow plows are operating within their own work zone, which is why travelers should stay three to four car lengths behind a plow and never pass on the right. Three CDOT snow plows were rear-ended in southeast Colorado in one weekend this month, one plow was hit by a motorist traveling about 75 mph. 

“Just think about what it would be like if a car came crashing through your workplace, it is no different for us,” said Lorme. “We cannot become complacent while driving, motorists should drop any distractions, abide the speed limit and move over for maintenance and construction vehicles just as you would for an emergency vehicle. If you can’t move over then slow down as you’re passing our crews. Motorists can face serious fines if they do not adhere to the “Slow Down, Move Over Law.”

The Slow Down, Move Over Law requires motorists to move over one lane for a stopped vehicle or, if they cannot safely move over, they must slow down by 20 mph if the speed limit is 45 mph or more.

“There are construction zones around the State that folks may be accustomed to driving through and stop being on high alert for,” said CDOT Chief Engineer Steve Harelson. “We do see motorists speeding through construction zones because they don’t think crews are out and they don’t have to be as cautious. That is not a mindset any motorist should fall into. At any time we can have crews out working in different sections of a construction zone. We cannot fall into an illusion that just because we didn’t see crews yesterday we won’t see them today.”

Construction zones will always be something motorists must navigate and some may just drive idly through. Motorists cannot go on autopilot while going from point A to point B, especially in a work zone. Your life and CDOT’s construction and maintenance crew members’ lives are in your hands when you are behind the wheel. 

DrivingTips

CDOT urges drivers to always drive with care, especially when traveling through work areas. Use these safe-driving tips when traveling through cone zones. The public is also reminded that in Colorado, fines are doubled for infractions in a work zone.

  • Be patient and stay calm: Work zones are not there to personally inconvenience you. Remember - the work zone crew members are working to fix and improve the road and make your future drive better.

  • Expect the unexpected: Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people may be working on or near the road.

  • Don’t tailgate: Keep a safe distance between your car and the car ahead of you. The most common crash in a highway work zone is a rear-end collision, so leave two car lengths between you and the car in front of you.

These are just a few of the many suggestions recommended for motorists. For more tips, visit: https://www.codot.gov/programs/cone-zone/safe-driving-tips.html

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About CDOT

CDOT’s Whole System-Whole Safety program has one simple mission — to get everyone home safely. Our approximately 3,000 employees work tirelessly to reduce the rate and severity of crashes and improve the safety of all modes of transportation. The department manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway, more than 3,000 bridges and 35 mountain passes. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also operates Bustang, the state-owned interregional express bus service. Gov. Jared Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s intermodal mobility options.