Exhibit focuses on tragedies in work zones - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Exhibit focuses on tragedies in work zones

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Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2005 3:31 am | Updated: 7:28 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

At construction sites across the Valley, workers see the same thing.

Drivers zip past orange cones without regard to speed limit signs. They gab on their cell phones.

And sometimes, they crash and take a life.

Work-zone crashes have claimed more than 100 Arizonans in the last five years in what construction officials say are avoidable deaths. Industry leaders and transportation officials are calling attention to the problem with a traveling memorial that went on display Wednesday at the state Capitol in Phoenix and will remain there through Saturday.

The memorial has 900 names and shows drivers, passengers, law enforcement officers and construction workers who have died in work zones.

"It’s only the tip of the iceberg," said Kevin Woudenberg of the American Traffic Safety Services Administration.

Drivers should realize they’re the ones most as risk in a work zone, workers say, as 85 percent of the fatalities are drivers and their passengers. The problem is drivers too often only see construction as an inconvenience, said Mike Flynn, a safety manager at Granite Construction Co.

"They don’t recognize the dangers they’re driving through," Flynn said.

The biggest potential for danger is often at the smallest projects, he said. While freeway projects often involve concrete barriers, city projects are more likely to use cones to mark a path. Plus, they are more of a surprise to drivers because many city work zones can last just a few hours.

Flynn and others said drivers would make the road safer for workers and themselves if they:

• Slow down in work zones.

• Resist distractions such as cell phones.

• Expect the unexpected.

Police say it’s a struggle to slow traffic in work zones — and that driver behavior is shocking at times. During a project to widen Interstate 10 near the Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202, the Arizona Department of Public Safety cited drivers who sped through the area at 100 mph.

DPS Lt. Col. Bill Reutter urged drivers to consider the safety of workers as they pass through work zones — or to expect a citation.

"It’s not harassment on our part," Reutter said. "Our job is to make sure you go home safe."

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