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Media help drive home work zone safety message

Treasure Valley motorists were reminded this week to slow down and pay extra attention in highway work zones. Television news broadcasts, newspaper stories and radio traffic reports all drove home the safety message as part of Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, April 5-9.

The same message will be directed to the media and public in other areas of Idaho as construction projects return to Idaho highways.

“Our goal is to reduce work zone crashes and fatalities by reminding drivers about the importance of work zone safety and the reality of work zone crashes,” said ITD Director Dave Ekern. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure everyone gets home safely.”

The safety reminders were coupled with stepped-up patrols in construction zones. Idaho State Police (ISP) troopers increased their vigilance to emphasize the safety of both motorists and construction workers.

According to ISP, the motorcycle patrol unit has been making their presence felt for those who’ve refused to slow down, particularly in the construction corridor of I-84 through the WYE Reconstruction project.

“Last summer the motorcycle officers worked this area extensively with the intent of making motorists know we are serious about the dangers caused by excessive speeds in construction zones,” said ISP Region 4 Capt. Steve Jones. “We want motorists to know we will be paying even closer attention than usual to these hazardous areas as part of this nationwide awareness effort.”

ITD also partnered with the Idaho Associated General Contractors (AGC) and the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) to drive the message home.

“Highway work zones are considered among the most hazardous places for workers in the United States, but they can be just as dangerous for motorists,” said Michael Gifford of Idaho AGC. “The stark, but little-known, fact is that four out of five people killed in work zone crashes are drivers and passengers, rather than workers.”

While injuries and fatalities among workers are declining, crashes involving motorists have increased recently.

Crashes in highway work zones claimed two lives statewide in 2003. Both fatalities were motorists. During the same year, there were 357 collisions in Idaho work zones; 254 of those were in southwest Idaho, which includes the Treasure Valley. The year before, there were 266 work zone collisions statewide.

Rear-end collisions account for most work zone crashes. Following too closely, inattentive driving, failing to yield the right of way and improper lane changes also contribute to accidents in work zones.

“Drivers have the most at stake in work zones and can do the most to keep themselves and others out of danger,” said Craig Quintana of ACHD. “Slowing down and leaving plenty of space between you and the car ahead are two of the easiest things you can do to improve your safety when driving through a work zone.”

Other tips for motorists to increase safety include: plan ahead – allow for the few extra minutes a construction project may add to the commute; and minimize distractions such as cell phones or the car stereo.

Idaho State Police officers will increase patrols in work zones during Work Zone Safety Week. The standard fine for speeding in Idaho is $53; the fine for a work zone speed violation is $82.50.

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