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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2008

Orange glow on I-75 may spark safe driving


BOWLING GREEN - It may look like Halloween, but the orange glow that bathes rest-area buildings on I-75 in southern Wood County is really a plea for motorists to use extra care driving through work zones.

The I-75 buildings are among numerous facilities statewide that the Ohio Department of Transportation is lighting in orange this week to call attention to National Work Zone Awareness Week, which started Monday and continues through the weekend.

ODOT also has placed programmable message boards, like those used in work areas, displaying this year's slogan, "Slow for the Cone Zone," at the rest areas.

A nearby line of 14 traffic cones recognizes the 14 travelers who died in work-zone crashes last year in Ohio.

The 5,418 work-zone crashes in the state during 2007 also resulted in about 1,860 injuries, ODOT said.

In Michigan, there were 5,499 work-zone crashes last year, 283 more than in 2006, that resulted in 20 deaths and 1,420 injuries. One roadway worker was among the fatalities.

No construction workers died on Ohio highways last year, but Theresa Pollick, a spokesman at the ODOT district office in Bowling Green, said a very close call in December involved a drunken driver who crashed into the rear of an ODOT truck on I-475/U.S. 23. Three men were working in front of the truck, she said. "It was quite possible they would have been killed," she said.

State laws in Ohio and Michigan provide for double fines for all moving violations in work zones.

Michigan posts 45-mph speed limits in all freeway and trunkline construction zones if workers are present. Any motorist convicted of killing or injuring a roadway worker can face 15 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. Pending legislation would extend similar penalties for the death or injury of anyone in a work zone.

"While this week is important for raising awareness, motorists must continue to remember that paying closer attention and driving the appropriate speed in work zones all season long can save lives," Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Along with the I-75 rest areas, other ODOT buildings to be bathed in orange this week include district offices in Lima and Ashland; a portion of the Greater Ohio Ethanol plant along I-75, and department headquarters along I-70 in Columbus.

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