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Watch out for Oklahoma highway crews

Watch out for Oklahoma highway crews

This article first appeared in The Oklahoman.

Don Gammill, Traffic Talk
Read more columns by Don Gammill.

Watch out for Oklahoma highway crews

By Don Gammill
Published: April 27, 2009

Remember the "Oklahoma Highway Workers: Give ’Em a Brake” campaign that began in 1995? It’s still needed.

The idea is to remind motorists to slow down and pay attention around highway crews, who handle projects ranging from roadway repair, resurfacing, erecting signs, traffic control, cleaning ditches, snow and ice removal and mowing to emergency situations such as chemical spills. They are extremely vulnerable as vehicles pass close to them. Sometimes, even more so than others.

In construction zones, sometimes you see a guy — or a woman — with a flag or a "stop” or "slow” sign. If some (driver) doesn’t do what the flag person tells him to do, can he get in trouble?

Mitch, City

Flaggers can’t write tickets like a police officer or the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Mitch, but the law states that drivers must obey their directions in a work zone or construction area. They’re there for a reason: your safety and that of the work crews.

Flaggers direct traffic in areas of extreme danger, such as when the roadway is narrowed and must be shared by vehicles traveling opposing directions. But they are in dangerous situations themselves. Each year, hundreds of highway workers are killed or seriously injured when they are struck by motorists. It was just such a situation that resulted in a recent change in Oklahoma law.

After Larry Dunlap of Sayre was struck and critically injured Aug. 31, 2007, while flagging in a work zone on State Highway 6 near Elk City, House Bill 2474 was passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Brad Henry.

In it, you can be fined up to $1,000 if you are speeding, fail to obey a merge sign, fail to stop for a flagger, fail to obey a traffic control device, drive in an area not designated for traffic in a construction zone or in any way alter a traffic control device. If you endanger the lives of workers and cause injury to a worker in a construction or maintenance zone, the fine can be $5,000. If your actions cause the death of a worker, the fine can reach $10,000. The law took effect Nov. 1.

By the way ...

This law doesn’t apply only to workers along highways. It extends to city, county and contract workers in a work zone on any city, county or state road.

Enjoy your week and drive safely.

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