The Ohio Department of Transportation observes National Work Zone Safety Awareness week each year with the aim of saving lives and preventing injuries and this year it is taking place April 14-21. The unfortunate fact is thousands of people nationwide – both motorists and highway workers – are injured or killed in construction work zone crashes. ODOT does all it can to ensure families and construction workers are safe while working on Ohio’s highways. Motorists can do their part by driving the posted speed limit, staying alert, and avoiding distractions in work zones – especially cell phone distractions.



According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2002-2011):
  • 169 people died in vehicle crashes in Ohio work zone in the ten-year period from 2002 to 2011 (the most recent information available)
  • 28 people died in 2002, the highest number of vehicle crash deaths in a single year in Ohio work zones
  • 8 people died in 2009, the lowest number of vehicle crash deaths in a single year in Ohio work zones
  • Those numbers are on the rise: From 2009 to 2011, the number of vehicle crash deaths in Ohio work zones doubled from 8 to 16
  • Information available here:
According to ODOT (2003 to 2012):
  • 7 ODOT employees have been killed in construction zones in Ohio in the last decade from 2003 to 2012
  • 56,945 vehicle crashes occurred in Ohio work zones in that same 10-year period
  • 20,590 vehicle crashes occurred in Ohio work zones when workers were present
  • 19,988 of the total vehicle crashes were rear end collisions
  • The top three causes of work zone crashes are:
    1. Following too closely
    2. Failure to control
    3. Improper lane changes
      ***ALL are preventable***
  • Excessive speed has directly resulted in more than 1,500 work zone crashes since 2003
  • You are more likely to be injured or killed in a work zone on a dry and sunny August afternoon than any other time of year


ODOT has a new tool it is piloting when it comes to work zone safety = Variable Speed Limits.
History: The Ohio Legislature in 2012 enabled ODOT to establish Work Zone Speed Limits. The director of ODOT can establish reduced speed limits based on the type of work and time of day.
Uses: Variable speed limits are used primarily in construction zones that are several miles in length, only where construction workers are present and where there could be significant temporary changes to the roadway such as one-lane road on a curve.
How it works: When a variable speed limit is used, the motorist will see portable sign on the side of the road that displays the speed limit for that work area. There are also flashing lights and text, “work zone” or “workers present” notifying motorists they are driving through construction. The portable sign has wheels so that it transported close to the specific work area.
Advantages: Variable speed limits improve safety for the public and the construction workers without imposing unnecessary travel delays during non-working periods.

Current Zone Using Variable Speed Limits:
Interstate 71 on the north side of Columbus. Six miles of I-71 in both directions will be resurfaced in the next few months. Because there are stretches of interstate where the contractor is NOT working, variable speed limits are being used.
Future Uses: Around the state, there are 10 construction projects this year that will use variable speed limits.
  • Franklin County – I-71 Resurfacing and pavement repair
  • Henry County – U.S. Routes 6/24 Resurfacing four-lane highway
  • Portage County – I-76 spot pavement repairs
  • Fairfield/Licking Counties – I-70 Bridge Maintenance/Repairs various locations
  • Madison County – I-70 Pavement repairs various locations
  • Montgomery County – U.S.  Route 35 west of I-75 pavement repairs various locations
  • Shelby County – I-75 pavement repairs various locations
  • Ross/Pike Counties – U.S. Route 23 Resurfacing
  • Two projects in Athens County – U.S. Routes 33, 32/50  Resurfacing
Fact: The variable speed limit trailers DO NOT use radar or any other technology to record and/or collect speeds from passing motorists. The trailers are programmed to post the speed limit in a construction work zone and flash lights intermittently.