Federal and state officials are urging people to drive safely as fatalities climb in highway work zones. Here in Ohio, digital signs flash the numbers of fatalities for motorists and motorcyclists. They're lucky one of my best friends and I don't carry guns, otherwise the total surely would climb precipitously until we were arrested.
I'm a safe driver. I generally drive the speed limit (okay…close to the speed limit…okay, within 10 miles of the speed limit) and I am militant about not talking or texting while driving. I don't pass on the right; I don't plop my car in the passing lane and stay there while drivers try to get around; I signal when I turn or change lanes; I slow down in construction zones; I don't tailgate; and I look out for bicyclists and pedestrians. But depending on the amount of caffeine I've had, I can get a little … angry when I'm behind the wheel.
Three things really tick me off:
- Vehicles moving at excessive rates of speed or vehicles traveling significantly below the speed limit for no discernable reason.
- Drivers who weave in and out of traffic, cutting off other vehicles.
- Drivers who clearly can see parked cars or construction signs but stay in their lane and cut over at the last minute, requiring other drivers to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision, in order to shave a few seconds off their commute.
In other words, drivers with road rage give me road rage.
A good friend and I recently were laughing about this, and she admitted, "Road rage is why I don't carry a gun. I'd kill someone." She is a cautious driver, but cut her off or tailgate her and her personality goes from relaxed and fun-loving to furious in record time.
Deputy Federal Highway Administrator David Kim joined federal, state and local transportation officials, and highway safety advocates to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 11-15). The annual event coincided with the start of the 2016 highway construction season, and called on drivers to be especially careful during warm-weather months when highway construction is at its peak.
In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, 669 fatalities occurred in highway work zones, including 17 in Ohio where I live and where this year's national kickoff event was held.
"While fatalities are about half of what they were 15 years ago, too many people are still dying in work zones," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "It's up to you, me and the rest of the driving public to keep workers and ourselves safe by slowing down and paying attention when behind the wheel."
This year's theme is "Don't Be That Driver!" to remind drivers that work zones require them to stay alert and be prepared for sudden changes that distracted drivers may not notice in time to prevent a crash.
Surrounded by highway workers and families of workers killed in work zones by drivers, Kim and other officials honored the Ohio highway workers killed in the line of duty last year.
"We must do everything we can to keep highway workers, drivers and vehicle passengers safe," said Kim. "We've made good progress over the years but the slight increase in the most recent annual work zone fatalities tells us we still have much to do."
Driver and vehicle passengers accounted for 82 percent of work zone fatalities in 2014, and distracted driving was a factor in 16 percent of fatal crashes in work zones. Speeding was a factor in nearly one-third of them.
As for me, I'll try to stick closer to the speed limit, keep my eyes on the road and to avoid caffeine before getting behind the wheel.