The Oregon Department of Transportation is begging motorists to slow down and pay attention in construction zones during Work Zone Awareness Week.
With all the active construction zones in the region, it’s a message drivers need to incorporate into their travels.
We visited the Highway 20 roundabout construction projects to see how motorists are doing. The road construction zone extends for four miles from Bend to Tumalo. The speed limit is 35 miles an hour throughout.
There are multiple lane changes, grooved pavement, heavy equipment working adjacent to the travel lanes and dozens of workers counting on motorists to see and avoid them.
“We hear a lot of things from our crews on the ground and flaggers out there of people driving too fast through the work zones, people not respecting the lane closures,” said Kacey Davey, ODOT public information officer. “They’ll go around flaggers. It can be really dangerous out there for our crews and the drivers as well.”
RELATED: TRAFFIC ALERT: Cooley Road east of Highway 20 closing Sunday for 3 months
RELATED: Majority of Hunnell Road closed through July for road improvement project
Driving behavior around work zones is such a concern that ODOT’s Work Zone Safety Task Force is capturing data on “near misses.”
During the pilot period from August to December 2022, the task force received 133 near-miss reports, an average of 27 incidents per month.
Of those, two-thirds involved a vehicle nearly hitting equipment or crews, or a driver going around a flagger — all extremely risky behaviors for people in the vehicles and the work zones.
“Really pay attention when you are driving. Don’t be distracted by your phone. Obey the speed signs. Slow down,” Davey said. “If you see orange out there on the roads, that means a construction zone is coming up. Give yourself extra time in your planning so that if you hit a work zone, it’s not going to delay your travel.”
In 2020, the last year for which reports are available, there were 399 crashes in Oregon work zones. Six people died, 337 people were injured and there were 173 incidents that resulted in property damage.
There are financial incentives for slowing down: Fines for speeding in work zones are automatically double.