Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


April 21, 2010

No cellphone zone: Safety is key in highway work zones


Dialing, texting and talking on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle is generally not a good idea. Talking and texting while driving through a highway work zone is even more dangerous. That’s why the Virginia Department of Transportation is urging motorists to observe the so-called “no cellphone zones” as part of the ongoing National Work Zone Awareness Week. The campaign is being targeted toward those multi-tasking drivers who will often attempt to dial, text or talk on their cell phones while driving. A distracted driver who is attempting to dial, text or talk on a cell phone is more likely to be involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in a highway work zone than a driver who is focused on the road, according to VDOT. While area law enforcement won’t be enforcing the no phone zones, it is important to remember that texting while driving is still a secondary offense in Virginia. Legislation passed by the General Assembly last year now makes texting while driving a secondary offense. Those who text or e-mail while driving in Virginia can now be fined between $20 for a first offense to $50 for a second offense if they are pulled over for another primary violation. According to VDOT, more than 275 million people now use cell phones. The agency is warning that highway work zones are a dangerous place for both drivers and workers. VDOT says deaths in highway work zones most often involve motorists, and not highway workers. On average, four out of five people killed in work zone crashes are drivers, and not highway workers. In Virginia, there were more than 2,000 crashes in work zones on state-maintained roadways in 2008, which is the most recent data reporting period. Nationally, there were 720 deaths and 40,000 injuries in work zones during the same reporting period. Motorists traveling through highway work zones should always be focused on the road and should always exercise extreme caution. Please hang up the phone and continue your conversation at a later time when approaching a highway work zone. Trying to have a conversation while maneuvering around traffic cones, highway flaggers and other construction equipment is simply too dangerous. According to VDOT, drivers traveling through work zones should not only hang up their cell phones, but also avoid changing radio stations, eating or engaging in other activities that would cause them to take their eyes off of the road. They should pay close attention to all signs and work zone flaggers. Motorists also should never tailgate another vehicle in a work zone, and should always obey the posted speed limit in work areas. Highway work zones are dangerous for both drivers and workers. A distracted driver, including one who is talking or texting on a cell phone, makes the situation even more dangerous. Please hang-up the phone, and exercise extreme caution, when traveling through highway work zones this summer.

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