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More troopers watching Ohio road work sites during '100 deadliest days' of the year

Vehicles drive by a work zone speed limit sign on I-71 near Mansfield.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Vehicles drive by a work zone speed limit sign on I-71 near Mansfield.

Highway safety experts say the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the 100 deadliest days on the roads. This is also the peak of road construction season. The state is now targeting work zone areas with extra enforcement to protect road crews.

There have been 46 crashes involving ODOT work crews in Ohio so far this year, starting with several snow plow crashes this winter. There were 56 of these crashes in all of last year. Since 2019, there have been almost 26,000 work zone crashes with 9,000 people hurt and 99 killed. Nine of those were road crew workers.

One of those was 59-year-old Steve Cook of Barnesville in Belmont County.

Around 2 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2017, his wife Linda Cook got the call that he had been killed working in a construction zone on I-70 on the west side of Columbus. The driver was impaired and sped past barricades set up to block lanes the crews were working in. The driver then swerved into the lane where Steve Cook was standing and struck him.

“Innocent, hardworking people are being killed while doing their job. And this is senseless. And it needs to stop," Linda Cook said. "I never had the chance to tell the man that I love goodbye.”

She joined Gov. Mike DeWine as he announced stepped up enforcement by the Ohio State Highway Patrol in construction work zones, which he said started on Memorial Day.

"This includes troopers and cruisers, troopers on motorcycles and troopers in helicopters," DeWine said. "While drivers should expect that troopers could be monitoring any work zone at any time, we are prioritizing what ODOT and what the Patrol considers the most dangerous construction sites in the entire state."

Those sites are:

  • I-70 in Muskingum County
  • I-75 in Montgomery, Auglaize and Hancock Counties
  • I-77 in Summit County
  • I-280 and I-475 in Lucas County
  • I-90 in Cuyahoga County
  • I-71 in Clinton and Fayette Counties
  • State Route 32 in Brown County

Federal funds will also be used to pay overtime to keep more troopers on the roads, especially around those sites.
The state is also piloting some other programs to warn drivers to slow down.

"We have installed two detection warning systems that provide motorists with real-time information of slowdowns ahead. We're piloting work zone rumble strips on I-75 and Dayton at Interstate 70 and Zanesville to slow vehicles down and to make them more alert as they work zones," said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks.

Marchbanks said ODOT is also piloting a work zone barrel mover in Delaware County, which will allow lanes to be blocked off or reopened more quickly. He said that will help with the most dangerous times of construction work, setting up the work zone and tearing it down.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.