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Motorists asked to slow down,
drive carefully in work zones

Spring marks the unofficial start of Idaho’s construction season and transportation officials will observe Work Zone Safety Week, April 5-9, to remind motorists to slow down in work zones.

The Idaho Transportation Department, the Idaho Associated General Contractors (AGC) and the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) emphasize the importance of slowing down in work zones to ensure the safety of motorists and construction workers.

“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 in recent years. Accidents 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.

“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 Dave Ekern, ITD Director. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure everyone gets home safely.”

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.

The campaign begins in District 3 next week. Additional outreach and awareness efforts in other districts will follow throughout the spring and summer. The staggered timing of the campaign is designed so that the message of slowing down in work zones coincides with the onset of construction projects in each district.

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