By LOU WILIN
Motorists driving through the Interstate 75 construction zone in Findlay are going too fast and are distracted by cellphones, state officials said Friday.
They urged motorists to pay attention to the road and slow down to save lives of construction workers, other motorists and themselves.
The situation is so serious, state Transportation Department Director Jack Marchbanks came to Findlay to issue a warning.
“Just for a second, your taking your eyes off the road may injure or kill a fellow human being,” he said.
A 48-hour survey earlier this week found over 85 percent of the 281,000 southbound vehicles that passed through the construction zone were exceeding the posted speed limit, said Lt. Matt Crow, commander of the Findlay post of the State Highway Patrol.
One motorist exceeded 100 mph, he said.
The survey is over. Motorists should not be surprised if they get a citation for exceeding the construction zone speed limits.
“We’re taking strict enforcement,” Crow said.
There are approximately 15 electronic speed signs through the construction zone, and the speed limits posted on them have meanings, officials said.
A 60 mph limit means no construction workers are nearby; 55 mph means workers nearby are behind a concrete barrier; 50 mph means workers are nearby and unprotected by a barrier.
Looking at a cellphone text message can distract a motorist for four seconds. By then, at 55 mph, he would have traveled the length of a football field, said Randy Martin, safety director for Beaver Excavating of Canton, the contractor for the I-75 widening and upgrade.
“We need you to put down your phones, quit texting, drop your speed, and pay attention as you’re driving through zones,” Martin said.
Cellphones are not the only cause of distracted driving, Crow said. Sometimes drivers get preoccupied with their own thoughts.
“A lot of the distracted driving crashes that we’re seeing, and violations that we’re seeing, are cognitive distractions. So for instance, it’s the weekend and it’s Friday. ‘What am I going to be doing this weekend? The kids have a soccer game.’ They’re thinking about all the things that they have going on in their life,'” Crow said. “They’re not focused on the actual task of driving.”
It’s an easy trap for experienced drivers to fall into, he said.
Crow also urged motorists to move to the left lane when they see a construction vehicle, tow truck or other vehicle with flashing lights pulled off the right side of the road. Otherwise, a motorist can become distracted by what’s off the right side of the road, “and before you know it, you’re drifting over there,” he said.
“We have many construction workers that are either killed or injured, private citizens that are injured because people fail to move over,” he said. “We really encourage individuals to move over to the left and to stay safe and to give those workers the room that they need to make improvements to the roadways.”
The reconstruction and widening of Interstate 75 through Findlay is in its third year. The $114 million project is expected to be completed in late 2020.
State officials said since the project began in 2017, 257 crashes in the construction zone have resulted in property damage, and 62 crashes have resulted in injuries.
Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin