Work zone safety was the focus of an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) press conference held east of Defiance early Tuesday afternoon.

The session was hosted on Keppler Road, just north of Ohio 281, by ODOT’s District 1 office, Lima, not long after ODOT crews started a chip/seal project on the state route.

Traffic was maintained while ODOT’s Defiance County garage sealed Ohio 281 from just east of Defiance to the Henry County line, and on Ohio 18, from Ohio 18/281 to Henry County, with a layer of liquid asphalt and crushed stone. The treatment extends pavement life for more than five years, and is much quicker and cheap than resurfacing.

The project — which was expected to take just one day — was selected for ODOT’s work zone safety media conference because, according to ODOT officials, it required motorists to exercise extra caution.

“As laborers, it is our number one goal to get our men and women home safe at the end of the day,” said Bethany Billi, director of the Ohio Laborers-Employers Cooperation Education Trust. “... our message is simple, when you see the barrels, when you see the barriers in the lane, slow down, move over, pay attention, put down your distraction and drive like people you love work here, because people we love do.”

According to Karl Jefferson, Ohio Laborers’ health and safety field coordinator, 4,662 crashes occurred last year in Ohio road work zones, with more than 1,000 injuries and 14 deaths, including four roadside workers.

“The workers all here are not barrels, they are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives,” he said. “They’re not machinery, they’re brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We’d like to make our roads safe, so please let’s all join in, travel slow and keep our work zones safe.”

Added ODOT District 1 Deputy Director Chris Hughes: “Most people in their daily work ... don’t encounter the risk of serious injury or death right beside them every day, and people that work out here on the roads ... encounter that every day. One wrong step or one driver looking at their cellphone instead of looking at the road or not slowing down can result in tragedy.”

Meanwhile, Trooper Fernando Chavez of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Defiance noted the need for motorists to observe the state’s move over law requiring them to change to an adjacent lane or slow down when observing vehicles pulled over with flashing lights. The patrol will participate in a campaign to promote enforcement of the law on July 21-27, he indicated.

The law is “simple,” said Chavez. “If you see flashing lights — oscillating lights — you have to move over to another adjacent lane. If there’s not an adjacent lane available or something blocks you from getting over to the left, simply slow down and proceed with due caution. We’re out here for your safety, and the State Patrol is very supportive of this law, and we will take enforcement when need be.”

Also speaking Tuesday was Pat Dille, transportation administrator for ODOT’s Defiance County garage on Baltimore Road, and Rich Shatzer, transportation administrator for ODOT’s Williams County garage.

As for the chip/seal project undertaken Tuesday by crews of ODOT’s Defiance County garage — with assistance from the Williams County garage — Hughes said the reason for such projects is “stretching our dollars further. When we chip seal a pavement, what we’re doing is extending the life of that pavement, instead of going maybe eight or 10 years, and doing a resurfacing that’s going to cost millions of dollars, we can do a project like this that’s going to extend the life of that pavement by maybe another three, four, five, six years. So we’re really trying to maximize our investment.”

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