by Terry Rogers
Standing on the nearly completed overpass under construction at Northeast Front Street in Milford on a cool, windy Thursday, Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan kicked off Work Zone Safety Week. DelDOT has launched a new campaign featuring DelDOT workers and their families that has been titled “We Have Families, Too.”
“Those of you who know me, know how much I value our employees,” Secretary Cohan said. “We have the most awesome employees in state government. Work zone safety is art of that. Last year, we had five fatalities in our work zones and that was way too much. We knew we had to do better so we developed this campaign.”
Governor John Carney explained that he gets up each morning to head to the YMCA to work out and, in the winter, he was doing that in the dark but now that spring has arrived, it is lighter when he leaves home.
“You need less clothing when you go outside, you see that the trees are starting to blossom, the daffodils are out, the shrubs out back are flowering and you just get that feeling of spring,” Governor Carney said. “And then, you get out on the highway and you can’t get there from here without going through a construction zone. The orange cones come out. It is so incredibly important and it starts when the weather is nice and spring is breaking. Most of us as we are driving around our state don’t think about people out there every day. Every single one of them. That they get the job done and that they come home safely. I just want to tank the employees of DelDOT in particular, the work that you do is just so incredibly important for the people of our state and this Work Zone Safety Awareness Week should be week after week after week the whole year through.”
Seargeant Richard Bratz of the Delaware State Police commended DelDOT for making their message clear and doing all they can to draw attention to work zone safety for both motorists and the employees who must work on the highways.
“There are men and women who are busy making it safe for all of us and doing their part to build a better Delaware,” Sgt. Bratz said. “Let’s keep them safe by obeying the posted speed limit, eliminating distractions and putting the cell phone away. As a first responder, I have seen first-hand how crashes can have a horrible and devastating effect on families. Work zones are very busy with a lot of moving parts and demand both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road and your full attention. Driver inattention, distraction, following too close and improper lane changes are leading factors that cause these crashes.”
New billboards and advertisements throughout the state will now display photos of several DelDOT workers and their families. Katie Schwander, Krista Warner and Devon Dean are DelDOT employees whose families will appear in the advertisements. Mark Buckalew, Program Manager for DelDOT, told the crowd gathered that the one constant he remembers about his 20 years in the business is the people he worked with over the years.
“We’ve had disagreements, developed solutions, shared in struggles and celebrated successes,” Buckalew said. “I may not like my co-workers all the time but I can honestly say I love them. I value the knowledge and abilities they bring to the team. With that being said, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t worry about their safety. When they are out on Route 1 and 95 with traffic passing them at 70 to 80 miles per hour. Or when they are called out at three in the morning to handle a traffic situation so first responders can get to work. Delaware is home to many talented, hard-working women and men. We ask the public to slow down, be alert in a work zone. We continue to push, to build projects faster through innovation and new products. I’m excited for the future of work zone safety, utilizing new technology to create a better commute for our customers.”
Ken Grant of AAA Midatlantic suggested that people follow three simple rules when they get ready to travel. They should plan ahead and know where constructions zones are located. Grant explained that information about construction areas is available on the DelDOT website. The second advice he offered was to have patience as motorists travel through construction zones and the third was to slow down and take their time as lives were at stake.
“The faces on these billboards are real,” Secretary Cohan said. “We want you to slow down and drive like your mom works here or your dad works here. Because they do.”
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