Most Ohioans are familiar with the joke, “Ohio has four seasons: ‘almost winter,’ ‘winter,’ ‘still winter,’ and ‘construction’.” Though the purpose of the joke may be to gripe about the seemingly never-ending Ohio winters, Ohioans are all keenly aware that this time of year there is a dramatic increase in the amount of construction on our roads. The increase in roadwork is seen across the country this time of year. For this reason, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been established to bring attention to motorist and worker safety issues surrounding work zones. The event occurs every year in April as work zones, and therefore safety hazards, become more prominent on roads across America.
This year, Area Wide Protective (AWP), America’s Traffic Control Leader, decided to take a hands-on approach to National Work Zone Awareness week, beginning in the community surrounding their national headquarters in Kent, Ohio. AWP teamed up with local driving school, Universal Driver’s Training Center (UDTC) to educate local high school students about the importance of driving safely through work zones. Thirty students from Stow-Munroe Falls, Cuyahoga Falls, St Vincent St Mary, Woodridge, CVCA, Garfield, Walsh-Jesuit, and Hudson High Schools participated in the programs.
Safety and training experts from AWP and UDTC led two programs during the 2012 National Work Zone Awareness Week, which was recognized April 23rd – 27th this year. These programs were offered free of charge as AWP and UDTC generously donated their time, resources, and expertise to offer an important message about safety to the local community. The first program was held at Stow-Munroe Falls High School on April 23rd, 2012 from 6:00 – 7:00PM. The second took place at Cuyahoga Falls High School on April 24th, 2012 from 6:00 – 7:00PM. Both programs began with classroom instruction in the respective school buildings where Rick Garinger, Owner of UDTC, and Cuyahoga Falls Police Officer, introduced National Work Zone Awareness Week and summarized the importance of being cautious on the roads, especially around work zones. He followed the introduction with some examples of distracted or careless drivers and the damage he has seen firsthand, including having two of his knuckles broken by drivers who were not paying attention or did not slow down enough for the conditions as he directed traffic.
Following Officer Garinger’s remarks, Chad Barnard, AWP’s Regional Training Manager described some common work zones and traffic control devices all Ohio drivers can expect to come across on the roads this time of year. Mr. Barnard reviewed the purpose of the signs and channelizing devices in lane closures and the importance of recognizing and paying attention to the warning signs to give drivers information about what to expect and time to slow down, following the tapers used to guide drivers into the open traffic lane. Assisted by Mike Mills, an AWP Safety Representative, Mr. Barnard reviewed some common signals used by traffic control flaggers to guide traffic safely through work zones. Mr. Barnard demonstrated a few flagging signals, and Mr. Mills demonstrated the signals used with the stop/slow paddles and shared some of his own experiences directing traffic through work zones.
Once the students had a basic understanding of what to expect when driving through work zones, they had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. In the parking lots of the schools, AWP’s traffic control professionals set up a mock work zone for a common lane closure using their sate of the art traffic control equipment and traffic management expertise. The students each drove a golf cart provided by UDTC, first through the closed lane then through the open lane. Mr. Barnard walked beside each student as they drove through the zone, guiding them, offering helpful information, and providing important safety tips. Mr. Mills and Eric A. Hulme, AWP’s Director of Compliance & Training, operated as flaggers with stop/slow paddles on either end of the work zone. Both Mr. Mills and Mr. Hulme offered advice and direction as the students approached each of their locations. Some of the advice the students received as they drove through the zone included: Always drive slowly through a work zone; Be cautious, even when you are driving through the open lane because you never know when a worker may step into traffic, or construction equipment may start backing up; and Pay attention to the traffic control workers and flaggers – they are there to guide you smoothly through the work zones and to keep the construction workers safe.
The students who participated were asked to complete a survey and share what they learned. Here are some of the messages they would share with other drivers:
“Always be aware of your surroundings, be alert and cautious.” – Kristine, sophomore, HHS
“Make sure you are aware of your surroundings past your peripheral vision and keep alert to signs and people; avoid distractions. What I learned today had taught me the alertness that you must have in order to stay safe. I will pay more attention to other surroundings rather than just the car in front of me” – Vanessa, sophomore, HHS
“It is important to pay attention to what is in front of you. It is important for all drivers to know how to driver in a work zone”– Emily, sophomore, STVM
“Always pay attention to your surroundings.” – Rachel, junior, STVM
“Follow the directions and be aware of signs, situations, and road distractions.” – Cameron, sophomore, Walsh-Jesuit
“Be patient and really look for the workers/flaggers because they are helping us.” – Jay, freshman, CVCA
“Always pay attention, especially in a construction site. Be cautious when in a work zone.”– Josiah, freshman, CFHS
“Always watch the flagger if there is one. Pay attention to roads and road signs near construction.” – Emily, sophomore, CFHS
“Drive slowly in a construction zone.” – Kaylie, sophomore, CFHS
“Focus on the road and pay extra attention in work zones” – Aaron, freshmen, SMFHS
“Don’t be distracted” – Rachel, sophomore, SMFHS
Thanks to guidance from AWP and UDTC, thirty students from eight local high schools will be getting into the driver’s seat more prepared to face the dangers of construction season on the roads this year. Cameron, a sophomore at Walsh-Jesuit said of the experience and what he learned during National Work Zone Awareness Week 2012, “This was a good demonstration and learning experience that should be exposed to all prospective drivers and veterans alike.”
Cody, a sophomore at Garfield High School said, “It’s better to be aware and to know the proper way to be prepared.” These students will share what they learned with their friends and families and we can all be more aware and more cautious as we hit the roads this year.
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