Safety in the zone

First Posted: 4/30/2015

Orange and white. Yellow and black.

Area drivers are seeing a lot of these color combinations lately, with multiple construction projects in progress in the Abingtons and beyond.

Yellow and black caution signs, yellow flashing arrows and orange and white reflective traffic cones are common sights on the road this time of year. But it’s how one reacts to these that is important and could mean the difference between life and death.

According to Mike Doner, vice president of Flagger Force, at least 90 percent of the travelling public is courteous, cautious and attentive in work zones. But even the normally safe driver, when late for work or experiencing a bad day, can easily become careless or distracted, creating a dangerous situation.

Doner’s advice to drivers approaching a work zone is simple:

“Pay attention, understand there’s going to be a difference in your commute and respect that,” he said.

As a provider of traffic control services for construction and utility companies and more, Flagger Force workers are responsible for the safety of three parties: themselves, their clients and the drivers. Doner said one way in which they accomplish this is through a three-step process, which first alerts, then informs and finally presents a call to action to the drivers.

For example, a “road work ahead sign” will alert a motorist that something out of the ordinary is ahead. Shortly after the driver passes that sign, another may appear, which reads, “one lane road ahead,” informing him or her specifically what is out of place. Then, he or she will come upon a worker with an orange flag or a stop sign, directing traffic through the one-lane area.

Doner pointed out the importance of drivers paying attention to that first “road work ahead” sign, noting that “a change in routine is ahead of them” and not waiting for the last moment to exercise caution and slow down.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), at the start of this year’s construction season, launched an online campaign featuring the workers “behind the cones” to educate the public on the need to slow down in construction zones.

According to a PennDOT news release, 24 people were killed in work-zone crashes last year, eight more fatalities than the year before. Since 1970, 85 PennDOT employees died in the line of duty.

The department monitors work-zone safety internally and reported that in 2014, there were 131 “intrusions” in PennDOT work zones, 92 of which caused near-injury to employees or damage to equipment. Twenty-one of those caused fleet or equipment damage and 18 resulted in injuries to PennDOT employees.

One PennDOT pamphlet provides the following reminders to motorists to help decrease these numbers in 2015:

• Drive the posted work zone speed limit.

• Stay alert and pay close attention to signs and flaggers.

• Turn on your headlights if signs instruct you to do so.

• Maintain a safe distance around vehicles. Don’t tailgate.

• Use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly.

• Avoid distractions and give your full attention to the road.

• Always buckle up.

• Expect the unexpected.

• Be patient.

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