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‘We all want to return home safely:’ ODOT warns drivers of busy construction season

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- When John Doss started working at the Department of Transportation, there were no cell phones and there wasn't as much traffic.

But there is one thing that's stayed the same over his 31-year career.

"I'm still scared of this traffic," he said. "I've been here 31 years and you turn your back, you think you know it all, that's when you put yourself in more danger."

It's hard to quantify danger, but ODOT officials say the number of Oklahomans injured and killed in work zones has increased.

Thirteen people died last year in work zone accidents and 521 were injured. Those numbers took the five-year total up to 84 deaths and 4,260 injuries.

"It's one of those things that's becoming harder and harder for us with all the distractions around," said spokeswoman Terri Angier. " It could be their life that we're saving with this campaign."

This year's Work Zone Safety Awareness campaign will last two months, coinciding with the beginning of ODOT's busiest time of year.

For the first time in 20 years, Angier says the department is pushing out PSAs on TV and radio, trying to drive home the danger of distractions.

"It's just too dangerous for us to be moving as we're trying to look at our phone or look at directions," she said.

Eating and drinking while behind the wheel can also be a risk with deadly consequences. Speeding and following too closely can be just as dangerous.

Last year, two ODOT workers died within a week of one another after a pair of accidents in work zones.

The news hit workers like John Doss hard.

"It bothers me every time because it could have been me, or one of my other employees," he said. "It's important because we all want to return home at night. We don't want to be injured at work."

The Work Zone Awareness campaign runs through May.

Other scheduled events include:

  • May 2: Wear Orange Day
  • May 9: Oklahoma City's Skydance Bridge will turn orange in honor of the 59 ODOT workers who have lost their lives.
  • May 13-18: The National Work Zone Memorial Wall, which honors all people killed in work zone accidents, will be displayed at the Penn Square Mall.