If Georgia Department of Transportation employees could say one thing to the drivers who fly past their roadside work zones, it would be: “Slow down —it won’t kill you.”
But, they’d add, you could get hurt.
Commuters might be surprised to learn they are 85 percent more likely to be injured driving through a work zone than the workers themselves. Not to mention the sting of a pricey speeding ticket, which can go as high as $2,000.
The GDOT workers themselves are well aware of the dangers of the road. More than 50 have lost their lives over the past 30-plus years, while making roadway improvements.
It’s an irony that can grate on you, says Buford native Josh Cofer, 30. The project manager has most recently been working at the massive interchange of I-85 and Ga. 316, which is 80 percent complete. The next big piece to open before year’s end will be the northbound collector distributor system, a mirror of the southbound lanes that opened in October.
“They don’t understand when we’re in the road, we’re trying to help them get where they need to go safer, and faster,” Cofer said. “The [speed limits] are as much for their safety as ours.”
Before spring and summer travel adds even more vehicles to Georgia’s busy roadways, the GDOT is trying to increase public awareness of why work zones require slower traffic.
Even though they’ve witnessed too often how little patience many drivers have.
Workers have been pelted with garbage from passing cars from drivers annoyed by lane closures or traffic tie-ups, said GDOT spokeswoman Teri Pope.
Seeders — oblivious that humans are working inches away, whether they can see them or not — have posed the biggest danger.
In 2003, the GDOT’s Randy Reece was killed instantly, Pope said, by a flatbed truck that didn’t slow down in a work zone on State Route 13 near Buford.
A contractor was maimed not long ago in another work zone, while he was just standing there. A lugnut flew off a passing truck with such force, it knocked the man’s ear clear off his head. (It couldn’t be reattached, Pope said, because it couldn’t be found.)
Another worker was injured by a speeding tractor trailer when a tire flew off and hit him so hard, it broke his leg.
“Work zones are our office,” Pope said. “We only do paperwork inside when it’s raining, and we can’t be out here. We’re out here most days, working with traffic whizzing by at 60, 70 and 80 miles per hour.”
Since drivers routinely ignore the slower speed limits posted at work zones, Pope said, fines are doubled for anyone caught speeding. The presence of blue lights — signaling police are handing out tickets, or just patrolling the area — seems to be the one thing that slows folks down.
Law enforcement officers were out in force on Wednesday morning on GA 316, just past the point where it branches off from I-85, handing out expensive reminders that contrary to driver habits, the speed limit in this busy work zone is 45 mph.
Article- Eileen Drennan, Atlanta Journal Constituion