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Burnaby drivers reminded to respect the 'cone zone'

Cone Zone campaign has been running for 11 years but drivers getting worse, says road safety officer

The Cone Zone campaign to get drivers to slow down and pay attention when driving past roadside workers is entering its 11th year this summer – but things aren’t getting any better, according to Sgt. Patrick Davies

“Unfortunately, I’d have to say they’re probably getting worse,” said Davies, who’s been with the campaign for about four years, “and they’re getting worse in the sense that we’ve got so much traffic and everything is so busy and everyone’s in such a hurry, and many people see driving as a secondary thing in the sense that, ‘I can multi-task; I can steer with my knee while I put make-up on or answer that text.’”

But that attitude is dangerous – and sometimes deadly – for flaggers, road construction crews, tow-truck drivers, first responders and others whose work brings them to the side of the road, according to Davies.

Davies and other members of the Integrated Road Safety Unit joined officials from WorkSafeBC and members of the Work Zone Safety Alliance at a “cone zone” in Burnaby Monday.

Officers conducted a traffic-enforcement blitz in the eastbound lanes of Lougheed Highway by Delta Avenue between 9 and 11 a.m., issuing a total of 20 tickets for speeding and using an electronic device.

Karesse Desmond, a former flagger now with K2K Consulting, agreed drivers seem to have become increasingly “comfortable” with driving distracted.

She said drivers’ “complacency,” an expectation that nothing terrible will happen if they drive dangerously or don’t pay attention, poses the greatest risk to roadside workers.

After that, she lists distracted driving and excess speeding.  

Desmond said the Cone Zone campaign is a way to raise awareness about how those things impact roadside workers.

“The primary purpose of it is to bring the attention of the driver to the fact that we exist and we’re on the road,” she said. “We’re hoping that they can acknowledge us as humans and recognize that we’re just here trying to do our work and we’re here to get them through as safely as possible and as quickly as possible.”

Davies said the Cone Zone campaign is making a difference in terms of educating people but more is needed.

“We need to do more enforcement, and we do the best that we can with the resources that we have,” he said.

He said he’d also like to see fines adjusted to reflect the level of risk involved in certain traffic offences, like excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention as compared to something like failing to produce a driver’s licence.

“Right now there’s a mix of fines all over the place because the Motor Vehicle Act and Motor Vehicle Regulations are a very old document, and things change,” Davies said.

He said he’d also like to see the courts take traffic offences seriously.

Last year, 23 workers were hit by vehicles, according to WorkSafeBC

Between 2011 and 2020, 12 roadside workers died and 207 were injured after being hit.

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Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor

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