YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Last year, 14 people died along Ohio’s roads — four of them being construction workers.
Statewide, there were nearly 1,000 injuries reported in work zones.
That’s why during National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, the Ohio Department of Transportation is reminding people about safety.
“One of the most important things you can do out there as a driver is just be careful driving through those work zones,” said ODOT Spokesman Justin Chesnic.
ODOT is urging drivers this week to slow down and stay alert during road construction, like the work zone on Interstate 680 in Youngstown.
“We have signs sometimes a mile, two, even three miles out, alerting motorists that a traffic pattern is going to change or that the speed limit could change or that there are workers out there. Those signs are there for a reason,” Chesnic said.
Drivers don’t always obey those traffic signs, however. Sometimes, they speed by.
Tom Kopnicky, a project construction engineer, sees it for himself, firsthand.
“Car flying by you at 50, 70 miles an hour, you know, two feet off your shoulder. You know, one false step or wrong move, and it could be bad,” Kopnicky said.
Chesnic said he wants to make sure that workers get home safely.
“We have workers out there, we have contractors that have workers out there, utility companies, everybody, you know, that’s involved with these projects. They all have families that they have to go home to,” he said.
Kopnicky said many times, they are caught up in their work and forget how close they are to traffic.
“You’re constantly around it — eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, all year round,” he said. “It becomes more second-nature for us, so we’re even less aware of it, sometimes, than maybe what the traveling public is.”
Workers do look out for each other, though.
“We’re always, always trying to watch each other’s back to keep everyone safe,” Kopnicky said.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said 14 construction workers were killed along Ohio’s roads. There were 14 fatalities, which included four construction workers. We regret the error.