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Reports of Dangerous Distracted Driving Up in Critical I-95 Work Zones

DALE CITY, Va. — Summer driving season is heating up, and officials fear the number of crashes caused by distracted driving could rise.

Again this year, officials gathered at a rest stop on Interstate 95 in Dale City, at the heart of the 95 Express Lanes construction project where HOV lanes are being converted into toll lanes, to warn drivers about the dangers of texting while driving.

The advice comes just days after Mary Jane Tracey, 72, of South Carolina, was killed after driving her minivan on the Capital Beltway and suddenly stopping to avoid entering the 495 Express (toll) Lanes.

“Most of the people that die in work zones are the people driving the cars, so it’s the right thing to look out for workers, but even if you’re not good at doing that you should look out for yourself,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane.

A new report released by AAA Mid-Atlantic and Transurban, the corporation building the 95 Express Lanes, notes there is too much distracting driving the heavy-construction corridor from North Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexandria. The amount of distracted drivers in the corridor has increased from 56% in 2013 to 62% this year, according to a survey of 1,023 drivers who frequent the I-95 corridor.

Officials urge drivers to:

— Slow down when traveling through the corridor as there are constricted shoulders and frequent lane closures

— Avoid cell phone distractions, as well as traditional distractions – such as driving while drowsy or eating in the car – to decrease your risk of getting in an accident

— Remember that your driving decisions impact everyone – including you as the driver, your occupants and your fellow drivers and workers in the field

— Be alert for work vehicles that enter and exit the construction zone from the left lane

The overall message is part of Virginia’s “Orange Cones, No Phones” campaign implemented in 2009 while construction of the 495 Express Lanes from Springfield to Tysons Corner was kicking into high gear.

We also learned today there will be many more work-related closures to come as part of the project. Here’s some of what the Virginia Department of Transportation stated in a news release:

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced today at an Orange Cones. No Phones. Safe-driving event held on the 95 Express Lanes construction corridor that drivers traveling on I-95 in Northern Virginia should prepare for more lane closures and traffic impacts this summer. Drivers will face continued closures of the existing HOV and regular lanes on I-395/95 during overnight hours and weekends, as well as on weekdays during non-rush hours, as crews work to advance the Express Lanes to completion. The 95 Express Lanes project is more than 75 percent complete, and remains on-schedule to be substantially finished by late 2014 and open to traffic in early 2015.

“As the public prepares for summer road trips and commutes, construction will be in full force along I-95 in Northern Virginia,” commented Helen Cuervo, VDOT’s Northern Virginia Administrator. “The Orange Cones. No Phones. message of putting your phone down and staying alert is even more important this summer as crews will be working day and night to keep the nearly $1 billion 95 Express Lanes project on-schedule,” continued Cuervo.

They added:

Other critical work scheduled for this year includes constructing new sound walls to provide noise reductions to nearby communities; building storm water management ponds; and completing final work on barriers, guardrails, paving and roadways.

Once the Express Lanes are complete early next year, they will offer drivers an option paying a toll to use the lanes during all hours of the day, or to use the lanes for free with three or more occupants in their cars. Whether driving solo or for free with at least three in the seats, an EZ-Pass will be required at all times.

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