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Undercover cops snag construction work zone violators

Russell Hixson
Undercover cops snag construction work zone violators

Be careful when entering a "cone zone." You never know who might be watching. Vancouver drivers rolling through construction sites this month found themselves slapped with tickets after undercover police officers dressed as workers documented bad behaviour.

Mark Ordeman, WorkSafeBC industry and labour services manager, explained that cone zone enforcement conducted May 16, as part of cone zone week, netted 31 tickets and 15 warnings.

Officers dressed as construction site supervisors with clipboards in Chinatown and at the north end of the Burrard Bridge watched for speeders and distracted drivers, radioing license plates to officers ahead.

The Vancouver Police Department reported that most of the tickets centred on cellphone use or distracted driving. Ordeman said that over the years the issue of distracted driving has become a major problem with cellphones and other devices.

"Distracted driving is quite a dangerous behaviour when travelling through a cone zone," he said.

"A worker’s only protection is their personal protection equipment. Even if going slow you can cause quite an injury."

Cone zone week is organized by the Work Zone Safety Alliance to raise awareness about keeping roadside workers safe.

Drivers in communities throughout the Lower Mainland will experience an increase in road maintenance and construction cone zones this summer. With repair work on the Pattullo and Burrard bridges and the Bridgeport overpass, drivers will also have to be aware of, and pay attention to, more roadside workers.

Between 2006 and 2015, 14 roadside workers were killed in B.C. and another 226 were injured and missed time from work as a result of being hit by motor vehicles while working in a cone zone.  Landscapers, municipal workers, police, firefighters, paramedics, telecommunication workers and tow-truck drivers, as well as road construction and maintenance workers all use the cone zone to protect their workplaces.

"One person killed is terrible, one person injured is terrible and it’s all avoidable," Ordeman said.

To help prevent collisions, injuries and frustration, drivers should be on the lookout day and night for roadside workers, work zone signs and traffic control devices such as orange cones. To keep themselves and workers safe, drivers need to eliminate any driving distractions, observe the posted speed limit while in the cone zone and follow the directions provided by roadside workers.

Planning an alternate route when possible will also help drivers reduce their stress when getting around this summer. Before heading out, drivers should always check local traffic reports, municipal websites or DriveBC for road and highway closures and for information concerning construction and road maintenance activities.

"Vancouver Police officers will be supporting the Cone Zone Campaign…throughout the summer construction period," said Ken Eng, acting inspector of the Vancouver Police Department traffic section.

"Construction zones pose a real risk of danger for both workers and road users. Everyone needs to slow down, be patient, pay extra attention, observe the posted signs and follow the directions of traffic control personnel in order to get to their destination safely."

In 2015, B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act Regulation was amended to include maintenance workers, utility workers, land surveyors, animal control workers and garbage collectors under the Slow Down, Move Over legislation, which protects the operators of emergency and enforcement vehicles and tow trucks.

If the posted speed limit is greater than 80 km/h, drivers must slow to 70 km/h. If the posted speed is less than 80 km/h, drivers must slow to 40 km/h. In both situations, drivers should be prepared move over and increase the space between their vehicle and the work zone, if it’s safe to do so.

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