Speeding in a construction zone? Ohio drivers need to see more enforcement

Ohio State Highway Patrol will focus on 10 locations, issuing tickets and educating drivers about the dangers of speeding and distractions in those areas

Dana King remembers every moment of the day she heard her 21-year-old son Alex had been struck and killed while working at a construction site in Butler County.

King remembers what she wore and what she ate for breakfast on June 7, 2021. “I remember the feeling of fear when I was told Alex was hurt and no one could tell me if she was OK.”

Alex King loved his family and his boxer Sadie. He loved fishing and loved his new truck. Now his mother is pleading with drivers to pay more attention when driving in construction zones.

“All I can ask of you is that you please slow down. Pay attention. Put down your phone and realize that these accidents happen in a split second,” said Dana King. “One small distraction can cause a lifetime of destruction.”

Now Ohio is ramping up enforcement of traffic violations in construction zones this summer — an active time for both construction and accidents.

Ohio State Highway Patrol will focus on 10 locations statewide, issuing tickets and educating drivers about the dangers of speeding and distractions in those areas. They will use motorcycles, helicopters and their vehicles to monitor bad driving behavior. Federal money helps pay for soldiers’ overtime.

“They are inherently dangerous jobs,” Gov. Mike DeWine said of road construction crews. ‘We don’t need to make them more dangerous. We’re trying to make them safer.”

The locations where enforcement will increase include:

  • Interstate 70 in Muskingum County.
  • Interstate 75 in Montgomery County, Auglaize County and Hancock County.
  • Interstate 77 in Summit County.
  • Interstate 475 and Interstate 280 in Lucas County.
  • Interstate 90 in Cuyahoga County.
  • Ohio 32 in Brown County.
  • Interstate 71 in Clinton and Fayette counties.

The Ohio Department of Transportation also uses rumble strips to slow workers on Interstate 75 in Dayton and Interstate 70 in Zanesville. ODOT uses electronic signs to warn drivers of possible delays. So far, construction in downtown Columbus closing the southbound ramp from state Route 315 to I-70 has not led to an increase in crashes, ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said.

Dangers within construction zones in Ohio

Since 2019, nearly 26,000 accidents have occurred in Ohio construction zones, injuring more than 9,000 people and killing 99 people.

Construction worker Steve Cook was an only child, but you might not know that. His coworkers were like family to him, and they would be the last people to see him alive in a construction zone on Interstate 70 west of Columbus.

The 59-year-old husband, father and grandfather died after being hit by a disabled driver in September 2017. His wife, Linda Cook, did not get the chance to say goodbye to the love of her life.

“Innocent, hard-working people are being murdered on the job,” Linda Cook said. “This is pointless and it must stop.”

So far this year, 46 people have been affected in construction areas, compared to 56 times in all of 2023, Marchbanks said.

“My goal, my mission is to ask everyone when you arrive at a highway work zone to be patient and be mindful of the environment,” Linda Cook said.

What is Ohio’s Move Over Law?

Ohio law requires drivers to move in a lane ahead of police, emergency vehicles, road construction and other vehicles with flashing lights. If the driver cannot change lanes, he should slow down. The law was passed in 1999 and expanded in 2013.

Ohio lawmakers have proposed changes to expand that law. Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, introduced Senate Bill 178 to require drivers to yield to vehicles that are on the side of the road and have their hazard lights on. House Bill 429 from Reps. Gary Click and Mark Johnson, both Republicans, would increase fines for traffic violations in construction zones.

DeWine said he would likely support efforts to make construction zones safer. But for now, he hopes this focus on construction zones will act as a deterrent.

“The amount of the fines may be relevant. It may be helpful to increase that,” DeWine said. “The most important thing is the driver’s feeling that if I’m in a roadworks area, I might get a ticket.”

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations in Ohio.

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