Drivers Required To Merge Before Work Zones

Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 5:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- There's a new law on the books requiring drivers to merge before they get to a work zone. New signs are pointing out the law, and drivers had some questions about them.

The signs discourage people from passing other cars to get to the head of the line. There's one on I-244 at Peoria, almost a mile away from the work zone. People are supposed to merge at the sign, not wait until they have to.

The nice weather of early spring means more work zones are popping up. This year, a new sign instructs drivers that state law requires them to merge now.

"Safety is imperative to what we do. It's the priority we place on all our projects," said Paul Green, ODOT Construction Engineer.

ODOT Engineer Paul Green says the new traffic control signs reflect a change in strategy. They're meant to encourage drivers to change lanes before they get to the point where they would have to merge.

Plenty of drivers are doing what the sign says.

"We're trying to remove that conflict point from the very beginning of where the project is. Usually at the end of the taper is where the project is, so we're trying to protect the workers in that work zone best we can," said Green.

A research paper from the University of Kansas found that merge now, state law signs do not result in earlier merges, but do reduce conflicts at the merge point and that improves the flow of traffic.

The new signs carry the weight of law, that's why they are partly in black and white.

The fine for disobeying the signs is $100.

For ODOT, Green says it's just about safety for the workers.

"Those workers are within 2 or 3 feet of traffic," said Green. "So, we want to ask people when they're hurrying through a work zone, is it worth it?"