SALEM, Va. – Virginia Department of Transportation officials are rolling out a new safety feature on roads across Southwest Virginia in an effort to cut down on the number of work zone crashes and prevent deaths.
Monday kicks of Work Zone Awareness Week. In 2018, the Salem VDOT district saw a 4.7 percent increase in crashes and had one fatality.
To mark this year's safety awareness campaign, VDOT officials set up portable rumble strips for the first time. They will be used on two-lane highways when crews are working in the same spot for hours at a time.
"It makes it a lot safer. Actually, it gives us a little feel of comfort that there is something out here on the roadway to help the distracted driver or the person that's in a hurry or something to slow down and say, 'Oh gosh. I'm coming into a work zone,'" said Tammie Sowers, the supervisor for VDOT's Hanging Rock Area Headquarters.
The rumble strips will not only keep workers safe, but drivers, as well.
"Our office is out here on the main highway with people running 55 and 60 mph," Sowers said. "As an employee, as a worker out here on the road, I want to go home to my family. And I also want the traveling public to be safe and make it home to their family or make it to their destination."
Larry Hunt, who lives in Catawba, was surprised to drive over the rumble strips on Route 311 on Monday. He says they could keep everyone safer, but would like them to be a little shorter.
However, Hunt used to work on highways and had a few close calls himself.
"A car almost hit a flagman. They weren't paying attention. And I had a car stop almost at my knees one time," Hunt said.
"I think it will be effective, probably not as much as they want it to be," added Mike Glass, another driver.
VDOT workers and Hunt agree that drivers always need to be alert.
"Just pay attention when you see those orange signs, that's what it means," Hunt said. "Orange: It means caution."