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April 9, 2014

NO PHONE ZONE: Ohio River Bridges Project officials urge safe driving practices

Officials urging motorists to stay off their cell phones when driving

LOUISVILLE — Construction zones are filled with hazards for workers. Tripping hazards, falling objects and equipment malfunctions are all areas of concern for construction workers, but the most dangerous thing at a roadside construction site may be in your pocket.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is observed each April at the traditional start of construction season, and officials with the Downtown Crossing of the Ohio River Bridges Project are marking the occasion by urging motorists to stay off their cell phones when driving during the busiest construction season the Greater Louisville area has seen in a half-century.

“Though it’s not illegal for drivers over 18 to talk on a phone while driving, we are encouraging them to put the phone down for safety’s sake,” said Andy Barber, project manager with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “We also need drivers to slow down. Paying attention in work zones will help keep drivers and our workers safe.”

Safety is the top priority in construction zones, and workers regularly see problem drivers passing through, said Vincent Groves, a flagger with Walsh Construction.

“Basically, every day’s dangerous because you don’t know what’s on the minds of these drivers,” Groves said. “There’s times, you know, I can take a look and see a lot of people on the phone, texting and ... not paying attention. Therefore, we’ve got to stay more alert because safety is our No. 1 priority.”

Speed limits in ORBP construction zones are 40 or 45 mph. Motorists are encouraged to pay attention and obey speed limit signage, said Max Rowland, communications project manager with Walsh Construction.

“What we’re urging for is everybody, please maintain the 45 mph speed zone in the work zone,” Rowland said. “It may seem like they’re going slow, but it is so much better — you can recover if there’s something that’s ahead of you that you’re not used to.”

A radar “buggy” that shows how fast cars are going is being posted at various points of the construction zones while work is underway, Rowland said. Rowland said the device is effective in getting motorists to check their speed.

“At night especially, if somebody’s coming through, it gives them that second warning that 45 mph, that’s the speed limit,” Rowland said.

Though construction crews will take the weekend off for Thunder Over Louisville, safe driving is everyone’s concern, Barber said.

“We do want people to keep their eyes on the road, limit distractions, don’t talk or text on the phone and maintain the speed limit,” Barber said.

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