Drivers, highway is not a race track

By Observer editorial July 15, 2010 11:19 am
In Northeast Oregon, there are two seasons: winter and road construction. There are also two types of drivers: ones that are in a hurry, and ones that are in even more of a hurry. Even here, in the Valley of Peace (aka the Grande Ronde Valley) we seem to be taking our cues from popular culture and driving faster and faster, as if we are being chased by the chronic stress monster. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Highway work seems to be everywhere this summer. For example, just between La Grande and Joseph, there are at least four work zones. Travelers to Wallowa Lake and other Wallowa County destinations should take this into account when planning their trips. No, drivers will not reach their destination in an hour. In fact, they might have stops at each road construction zone of up to 20 minutes. The trip might take significantly longer than they had at first planned. Be patient. Think of the road construction work as long-term regional progress rather than short-term personal pain.

Other construction is under way on the La Grande to Cove and Cove to Union highways, on 12th Street, on C Avenue, Spruce Street and in downtown Imbler. The list goes on and on.

According to the National Motorists Association, about 850 people died each year from accidental death in highway construction zones between 2006 and 2008. No, most of those deaths were not highway construction workers or the people holding up the stop or slow signs. About 85 percent of these deaths were motorists and their passengers.

Drivers should slow down when approaching a work zone. Read the signs and follow them to the letter. Do not speed (35 mph does not mean “for the other guy”). Avoid cell phone use, putting on makeup, or reading the newspaper, even if the story is a doozie. Don’t tailgate. The life you save may be your own.