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Cone Zone campaign urges PG drivers to slow down to protect roadside workers

Tens of thousands of roadside workers and millions of drivers in B.C. share a common goal. They all want to get home safe each day.

Achieving that goal by getting drivers to use caution and obey work zone driving laws is the focus of the annual Cone Zone safety awareness campaign in B.C. It reminds drivers in Prince George and around the province to avoid speeding, aggressive and distracted driving, and to obey flag persons and traffic signs. The campaign launched with a traffic enforcement event in Surrey that saw 42 tickets issued in two hours – with at least 31 going to drivers who were using cellphones.

“Every time you drive through a roadside work zone in the Fraser-Fort George region, you’re not just passing cones and barriers. You’re in someone’s workplace,” says Trace Acres, Program Director for Road Safety at Work, which manages the campaign with the support of the Work Zone Safety Alliance. “Just like you, these workers deserve to be safe in their workplace. Slow down and pay attention. Work zones are temporary but our actions behind the wheel can last forever.”

Roadside workers are in vulnerable positions with traffic passing within metres of them. They include traffic control persons, road maintenance crews, utility workers, landscapers, paramedics and police officers, tow operators, waste collectors, and many more. Every shift they’re at risk of being struck by vehicles.

From 2014 through 2023 in B.C., nine workers were killed and another 251 injured severely enough to miss work, according to WorkSafeBC statistics.

“Most crashes are preventable,” says Acres. “Roadside workers do jobs that help the rest of us, and we can show our respect and appreciation by giving them the space they need to work safely.”

Drivers and their passengers are at risk too. Driving too fast and being distracted in work zones can lead to crashes. “You’ve got to be fully engaged because there are a lot of things going on. Your driving decisions could be the difference between life and death.”

The safest decision is to avoid Cone Zones if possible, he adds. Listen to traffic reports before and during your trip and adjust your route.

Driving laws in roadside work zones

B.C. law requires drivers approaching and driving through roadside work zones to:

  • Slow down and drive with care
  • Pay attention and leave your phone alone
  • Obey road signs and traffic control persons and devices

Drivers may see more than bright orange cones marking work sites. Automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs) are becoming common throughout B.C. These safety devices use a gate arm and traffic light to guide drivers. Vehicles need to stop when the gate is down and a red light is shining.

Vehicles stopped at the roadside with red, blue, amber, or white lights flashing are also work zones under BC’s Slow Down Move Over law. It requires drivers to slow down and switch to another lane if possible and safe to do so.

Penalties for unsafe driving in work zones range from $121 to $368.

Roadside safety a shared responsibility among drivers, workers, and employers

Roadside worker safety is a collaboration between drivers, employers, and workers. They can all find tips and information

Employers are required by law to provide job specific training, education, and supervision to their roadside workers. The workers need to know how to identify hazards and assess risks and follow safe work procedures.

The Cone Zone campaign is a collaborative effort aimed at reducing the number of injuries and fatalities among roadside workers.

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