ODOT Portland highway signs will show worker safety message Thursday

Nov. 17, 2021

You may notice new messages on your morning commute Thursday reminding drivers to take care in work zones.

We’re launching a special one-day safety campaign urging the public to watch out for workers.

The safety messages will appear through the day on ODOT variable message signs on highways throughout the Portland area. The new messages will override corridor travel times but other traveler information including road conditions and emergency safety messages will continue to take priority.

“On this special day of messaging we hope everyone will take a moment to consider the dangers road workers face every day while trying to keep us safe.” said Rian Windsheimer, ODOT’s Portland area manager.  “The tragedy that happened to my ODOT colleague last week was 100% avoidable.”

On Nov. 10, an ODOT employee was struck by a vehicle while on the shoulder of Interstate 205. He was with a crew cleaning stormwater drains to keep the highway safe ahead of the coming rains. The worker was critically injured, lost a leg and remains hospitalized.

City workers, county workers, tow truck drivers, transit workers, emergency service providers as well as ODOT workers all face similar dangers in keeping the roads safe for the public.

“All our local agency partners understand the grief our crews experience when one of our own gets hurt,” Windsheimer said. “We’re asking all drivers to please use extra care in work zones to keep themselves safe, and so our workers can all make it home to their families safely.”

This effort is a priority spelled out in our Strategic Action Plan to maintain a modern transportation system that ensures the safety of users and all transportation workers.

Such crashes are all too common on Oregon roads. Between 2015 and 2019, Oregon work zones saw:

  • An average of 540 people injured each year.
  • An average of 27 people killed or seriously injured each year.
  • An average of five fatalities each year, one of them a worker.

We all have a role in making sure everyone gets home safely.

Drivers should:

  • Pay attention when you see orange signs, barrels, cones and barricades, especially in the transition zone before the work area. An inattentive driver is the most common cause of work zone crashes.
  • Drive like you work here. Eyes on the road, mind on the drive.
  • Obey speed signs. We often reduce a work zone speed limit to keep you and workers safe.
  • Know that work zone traffic lanes often are narrow, without shoulders or emergency lanes.
  • Move over to give workers more room when possible, and slow down when moving over isn’t an option
  • Remember that fines double in all Oregon work zones, whether or not workers are present.

Under Oregon’s Move Over law, drivers must safely move to an adjacent lane or slow down to at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching police, fire or ambulance vehicles; when approaching any vehicle stopped and displaying warning lights; or when approaching anyone indicating distress with flares or emergency signs.

And remember that earlier this year the Legislature increased fines for violations.