Local News

Troopers' Work-Zone Message: 'Just Say Slow'

Posted April 23, 2007 7:16 p.m. EDT
Updated April 24, 2007 6:58 a.m. EDT

— The barrels and cones, Jersey barriers, and workers’ safety vests look pretty familiar, but there's something a little different in interstate highway construction zone these days.
It has blue and red flashing lights, a siren, and a person wearing a gray shirt and a silver shield inside.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers Monday began looking for work-zone speeders, a project they called Operation Drive Smart. Their first Triangle target is the Interstate 40 work zone for the Clayton Bypass at the Wake-Johnston county line.

They also are going to be on I-95 in Cumberland and Robeson counties, they said.

The state Department of Transportation says that in 2005, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 1,500 were hurt in work-zone crashes and 30 people died. The Highway Patrol says lead-footed, reckless drivers cause the trouble.

People are traveling too fast, driving recklessly. The signs are there to warn them: You are approaching a work zone, you need to slow down. Some people obey those signs, some people don't. So, that's why we have Operation Drive Smart,” said Lt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol.

Drivers will see some familiar sights during the enforcement campaign – the troopers’ black-and-silver Ford Crown Victorias. They also may see something new — unmarked Dodge Chargers.

“We blend right in. I can just ride through the work zone, just get in the right-hand lane and I just take my time and people will come up and pass me. They don't pay attention to this being a patrol car at all until they see the blue lights come on. It's a little too late then,” said Trooper D.L. Mobely.

In addition to the dangers for other drivers and themselves, dangerous drivers pose a risk to the people who try hard not to blend into the background —construction workers.

Rick Williams, a DOT worker, just missed being crushed by a speeding car in an I-95 work zone not long ago.

“Right before he got to us, he let off his brakes and straightened up and he went right by us, missed us by less than a foot,” Williams said.

If the need for safety and savings lines isn’t enough to persuade drivers, there is a financial incentive. The fine and the court costs for speeding in a work zone total $360.