ODOT hopes to prevent death, injuries in work zones with awareness week

Work zone awareness week (VIDEO)
Published: Apr. 12, 2016 at 10:03 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2016 at 3:01 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Ohio Department of Transportation officials along with the Federal Highway Administration kicked off National Work Zone Awareness week in Toledo Tuesday.

The event coincides with the start of highway construction season.

The theme for this year's kickoff is "Don't Be that Driver!"  ODOT says the goal is simple:  To prevent death and injury in roadway work zones.

ODOT has released a series of videos highlighting dangers of not driving safely through a work zone in support of the initiative.

As part of the initiative, ODOT is honoring the memory of highway workers from Ohio who were added to the National Work Zone Memorial in the last year – including Amber Rooks, a local woman who was hit and killed in a work zone in West Chester last year.

Last week, a jury found Michele Schuster guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault in connection to Rooks' death.  Schuster hit five workers with her car as crews worked on powerlines on Cox Road near Liberty Way in April 2015.  Rooks was working as part of a flagging crew at the scene.

Rooks died 11 days after being hit, and leaves behind a 9-year old son.

"It will always be hard.  The crying, the sadness.  It will always be there," said Shannon Dethlefs who is Rooks' mother.  "Amber lived for 11 days.  I was grateful to have those 11 days even though I never got to talk to her.  I was able to - hopefully she heard us - tell her we love her."

Dethlefs and her family were in Toledo for the launch of the National Work Zone Awareness campaign on Tuesday.

She has a message for those driving through work zones as construction season begins.

"What they're doing on that roadway it's not by choice of theirs.  They're trying to make life a little easier for you," Rooks told FOX19 NOW.  "I want them to look at those workers as humans, not just 'Oh my gosh, they're in my way.  Oh my gosh, they're making my commute so much slower, so much longer.'"

As part of the launch of National Work Zone Awareness week, ODOT says last year was the deadliest in over a decade in Ohio's roadway work zones.  Thirty people were killed – nearly doubling the numbers from 2014.

ODOT says in 2015, there were 6,035 work zone crashes in Ohio.

Drivers are reminded to stay alert and give driving your full attention while following all posted signs and obeying flaggers, and not tailgating and speeding.

You can take the work zone challenge here.

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