BY RUSSELL HIXSON - Alberta's Partners in Road Construction Safety are using technology to track where and when drivers "rip" through construction zones.
As part of its Don’t Rip campaign, the collection of Alberta public and private organizations has five moveable radar guns that will be taken from site to site every few weeks to document how drivers behave in the zones to see if there are regional differences. Officials are hoping the guns will help identify the problem areas on urban roads and highways. The data is also posted and streamed online, making the program unique in the country.
“We’re hoping to be able to update that regionally, as well as percentages of who is travelling how fast over the limit,” said Heidi Harris-Jensen, spokeswoman for the Alberta group.
“So anywhere from 10 kilometres over the posted limit to, God forbid, 40 kilometres over the posted limit, but those people are out there.”
The goal of the group is to put a dent in the 900 collisions and the millions of dollars in property damages that occur every year in road and utility construction zones in Alberta.
The streaming stats show why driving behavior has become a major concern for the province. More than 40 per cent of Alberta drivers in the monitored construction zones ignored the posted speed limits.
“That is a pretty shocking statistic if you look at some of the busier traffic locations,” said Harris-Jensen. “For instance, if you were working on a paving crew around Leduc on the (Queen Elizabeth II Highway), according to the traffic volume information that we have from the government that would mean roughly 18,000 vehicles in one day would be going past you over the posted limit.”
The radar guns show the worst concentration of those speeding is in Red Deer with 88 per cent, followed by Fort McMurray and Medicine Hat with 70 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively. More than 60 per cent of the speeding takes place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
To see all the live streaming data, go to www.dont-rip.ca.
Groups in British Columbia are also hard at work encouraging drivers to slow down and pay attention in construction zones with their annual Cone Zone campaign.
This year they’ve started the education with the younger generation, setting up an interactive go-kart event at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair held over the Victoria Day long weekend. Teenage drivers had to navigate a circuit containing construction zones.
The need for public education in B.C. is underscored as summer approaches and roadside work increases. There will be over 25,000 British Columbians working on its roads with little more than cones separating them from traffic. Workers often report drivers speeding or talking on their phones.
The outcome isn’t always good.
According to B.C.’s Work Zone Safety Alliance, between 2004 and 2013 nearly 240 roadside vehicle incidents involving workers were reported to WorkSafeBC - 15 of the workers died.
Over the past decade, an average of 24 workers per year were struck by motor vehicles while they worked on or beside the road.
Jack W. Davidson, president of BC Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association, emphasized the importance of the construction industry working with the government to protect workers. He said he believes stiff fines, clear signage and law enforcement presence in construction zones go a long way towards preventing incidents.
“All workers deserve a safe and secure work environment without having to worry about being injured or killed on the job,” Davidson said.