Fatal OHV accidents are a tragic reminder of the importance of driving best practices

PHOENIX — Following recent fatal off-highway vehicle (OHV) accidents, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds everyone about the importance of following best practices when driving on the state’s trails and public land roads.

In late September, a 58-year-old woman died in Cave Creek after being pinned underneath her utility-task vehicle (UTV). A week earlier a Prescott man was found dead after his UTV flipped over and trapped him underneath it. In addition, two other fatalities were reported due to OHV accidents in September and another occurred in Bagdad on Nov. 2.

“These recent tragedies are a heartbreaking reminder that an accident can happen to anyone at any time,” said Josh Hurst, OHV law enforcement coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Having a great day out on your OHV means coming back home and being excited to plan your next trip.”

While safety equipment like helmets (which are required for riders and passengers under 18) and eye protection (required for everyone) are critically important in the event of an accident, they do not prevent accidents from occurring. With accident prevention the ultimate goal, it’s important to look at the riding behavior that can contribute to OHV accidents.

Riding Double — Each OHV was designed by the manufacturer to carry a maximum number of passengers, and operating the vehicle with more than the recommended number of passengers not only changes how the vehicle responds when being driven, but it also means there aren’t built-in safety components for everyone onboard, such as a seat, footrests or handrails for passengers. Many injuries caused by an OHV crash are due to passengers riding improperly.

Reckless Driving — OHVs can weigh upward of 1,800 pounds, so it’s important to remember that they require the same skills and thoughtful driving as a typical passenger vehicle. Stay on legal roads and trails, using caution and proper riding techniques like shifting your weight and position to maintain control of the vehicle. Maintaining a reasonable speed and taking tight turns and steep hills cautiously can go a long way toward having a successful outing. Adapt your speed and riding behavior to ever-changing road and weather conditions, particularly in unfamiliar riding areas.

Driving While Impaired — Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs on an OHV is the same as a DUI in any other vehicle. The same laws apply while operating an OHV as do while operating a vehicle. If you are operating an OHV on public lands and are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be stopped by officers and arrested and face the same penalties as a DUI on the street. Driving under the influence is a major contributing factor to OHV accidents and injuries sustained as a result of OHV-related crashes. Drive smart, drive sober!

All of these actions can contribute to an accident or a rollover crash. Side-by-sides or UTVs often trap or pin the driver and any passengers when they roll over, and wearing seatbelts when available and window safety nets can be the difference between an accident and a tragedy.

“At the end of the day, what we want is for everyone to have an enjoyable time exploring Arizona on their OHVs,” Hurst said. “Contribute to our community of responsible and passionate OHV enthusiasts by doing your part to stay safe on the state’s roads and trails.”

Life jacket exchanges tomorrow help kick off ‘Boating Safety Week’

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department and agencies across the U.S. and Canada will join forces to promote life jacket use and boating safety as part of National Safe Boating Week.

The annual event begins Saturday, May 20 and ends Friday, May 26. To help mark the occasion, the department’s Boating Safety Education program will hold Life Jacket Exchange events from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the 10-lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant; Canyon Lake boat ramp; Saguaro Lake boat ramps; the London Bridge Beach at Lake Havasu City and Katherine’s Landing at Lake Mohave.

During the exchanges, people with old, worn and less-effective life jackets can swap them for a new life vest, while supplies last.

“Boating in Arizona can offer great experience for everyone on the water, but only if it is done safely and responsibly,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator. “While time on the water can be fun, it can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not prepared. National Safe Boating Week serves as a reminder to all boat and watercraft users to always wear their life jacket. It could very well save your life.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also helped to kick off Safe Boating Week, by issuing a proclamation, encouraging the public to be safe while on the water.

“Year-round, people continue to enjoy all that our natural environment has to offer through the joy of boating. National Safe Boating Week is observed to call attention to important life-saving tips for recreational boaters so that they can have a safer, more fun experience out on the water,” the proclamation states.

National Safe Boating Week marks the launch of the 2017 North American Safe Boating Campaign. This yearlong campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of voluntary, consistent life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme, “Wear It!”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2015, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Each year hundreds of people lose their lives in boating incidences, and they might still be alive if they had been wearing a life jacket,” said Rachel Johnson, CAE, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the North American Safe Boating Campaign. “It’s not enough to just own a life jacket and store it on a boat, you must wear it,”

New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

“Completing a boating safety course is also an important step to being a safe boater or watercraft user. Educated boaters are safe boaters,” Hoffman said. “Luckily the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers free boating safety courses.”

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a free safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. Those registering for an online safety course through BOATERExam.com can receive $10 off during Safe Boating Week by using the promo code NSBW17.

ADOT kicks off Work Zone Awareness Week

PHOENIX – Give’em a brake, Arizona.

That’s the message the Arizona Department of Transportation is sending to drivers during National Work Zone Awareness Week. Through April 7, ADOT will join federal, state and local transportation organizations across the country to bring attention to the importance of being alert when driving in work zones.

Throughout this week on social media, ADOT will share personal stories about work zone safety from ADOT employees who work alongside speeding vehicles while building and maintaining Arizona’s highways. Motorists will see work zone awareness safety messages on overhead signs, too.

“Safety is the No. 1 priority at ADOT,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “When it comes to work zones, where vehicles can speed by just inches away, there are very few more dangerous places to spend a workday. We rely on motorists to pay attention when entering work zones, not only for the safety of our crews, but for drivers and passengers, too.”

According to the Federal Highway Administration, drivers and passengers accounted for 82 percent of work zone fatalities nationally in 2014, the most recent year with complete data. According to preliminary data for 2016, Arizona had seven fatal crashes in work zones, resulting in seven deaths, and 27 serious-injury crashes.

To protect motorists and those who build and maintain Arizona’s highways, follow these tips when traveling through work zones:

  • Pay attention: Observe and obey posted warning signs, as well as flaggers. You can be cited for disobeying a flagger’s directions.
  • Expect the unexpected: Speed limits might be lowered, travel lanes could be narrowed or eliminated and people may be working near your travel lane.
  • Slow down: Speeding is one of the leading causes of work zone crashes.
  • Merge safely: Do it early and carefully or as directed by signage instead of barging into a line of vehicles at the last moment.
  • Don’t tailgate: The most common crash in a work zone is the rear-end collision. Don’t follow too closely and, again, slow your speed.

For more information about work zone safety, visit azdot.gov/workzone.

AZGFD, ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign encourages watercraft users to complete boating safety course

PHOENIX — Safe boaters are educated boaters, that’s why the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is encouraging all watergoers to take a boating safety course during the national Spring Aboard campaign March 19 to 25.

Those who complete one of AZGFD’s two classroom courses March 18 or an online course during the Spring Aboard campaign, will be entered in a drawing to receive a free watercraft rental generously donated by one of the following businesses:

• Phoenix ATV and Jet Ski Rental
• Jet Action Rentals in Tempe
• Havasu Adventure Company in Lake Havasu City
• Laughlin Watercraft Rentals in Bullhead City
• Parker Canyon Lake in Elgin

“This is an exciting time of year for our boating community,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education program coordinator. “Another great boating season is on the horizon and everyone is looking forward to when they can get out on the water. Before doing so, people should make sure they are prepared by taking a boating safety course.”

AZGFD offers free monthly classroom courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City to provide water users the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. The department also offers pay and free online courses. Below is a list of classroom boating safety courses scheduled for March:

Arizona Boater Education Course
• 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March 18, Apex Arms Facility – Green Building, 2176 McCulloch Blvd. N. Suite 8, Lake Havasu City
• 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March 18, Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix

Courses cover basic skills needed to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements, boating emergencies, watersports and paddling. In addition, most insurance companies offer a discount on boat or watercraft insurance rates for completing a course.

The department also reminds watercraft users that all boats, including paddleboards, must have a wearable life jacket for every passenger aboard and those 12 years old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times, under state law. Users should also check to make sure a life jacket fits properly by ensuring there is no excess room above the openings of the jacket and that it does not ride up over the chin or face.

Spring Aboard is a national campaign coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) to encourage the state’s boating and watercraft users to complete a safety education course.

In 2015 nationwide, 71 percent of the 626 watercraft-related deaths involved a vessel where the operator had never taken a safety course, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. It’s with that statistic in mind that NASBLA developed and produced Spring Aboard, utilizing a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard.

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating and click “Boating Safety Education.” To learn more about Spring Aboard, visit www.nasbla.org/spring.

Have fun in the snow, but don’t park along highways to play

PHOENIX – Snow in Arizona’s high country is a magnet for desert dwellers looking to ski, sled, make snowmen and have snowball fights.

Too often, however, a vehicle full of people heading to play in the snow winds up parked on the shoulder of a state highway or even Interstate 17 rather than pulled safely into a designated parking area well off the road. This creates a hazard for more than just the occupants.

“It’s dangerous for the driver who stops on the highway and for other drivers who might be distracted by your vehicle. It’s also dangerous for first responders who may need access to the shoulder to help someone,” said Audra Merrick, district engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation’s North Central District. “As tempting as it can be, never stop along the highway to play in snow.”

With snow in the forecast this weekend for the Flagstaff area, ADOT reminds those heading to sled and throw snowballs that highway shoulders are for emergencies and that parking on them to play in the snow is hazardous in a number of ways:

Other drivers may be distracted by your vehicle.
Other drivers may pull over as well to play in the snow, compounding the problem.
Your vehicle may interfere with first responders who need to use the shoulder.
Plows can throw snow and ice far off highways.
It’s much safer to re-enter highways from on-ramps and other designated entrances.

These dangers apply along highways other than interstates, including US 180 northwest of Flagstaff, where those from lower elevations often flock after it snows. Those who park on highway shoulders to play, even in areas where traffic may seem light, are endangering themselves and others. Locations of designated snow-play areas around Flagstaff are available at flagstaffarizona.org (click the Winter Snow Play link) or by calling 1-844-256-SNOW.

Those heading to enjoy winter in Arizona’s high country should learn how to prepare for extended time in cold, snow and ice, as well as how to be ready for potentially harsh driving conditions, by visiting azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

ADOT’s suggestions of items to have in a vehicle include warm clothing and blankets, a fully charged mobile phone and charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, drinking water, healthy snacks, a first-aid kit and necessary medications. Get plenty of rest, plan your route and take frequent breaks from driving.

Make sure your gas tank is at least half to three-quarters full at all times, and ensure that your wipers, window defroster, headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals work. Snow tires, chains or studded tires may be required depending on the conditions.

Wherever they are traveling in Arizona, drivers need to be prepared for possible delays caused by crashes or heavy traffic. Another cause of congestion during the winter is the popularity of snow-play areas. Those playing in the snow along US 180, for example, may need 90 minutes or more to get back to Flagstaff at day’s end, especially after it snows and over holiday weekends.

“It’s very important that drivers know what they’re heading into when they come up to play in the snow,” Merrick said. “Our crews are committed to keeping the highways open and safe, but weather, road conditions and traffic can change quickly, so leave prepared.”

Fatal off-highway vehicle accidents serve as reminders to practice OHV safety

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds all off-highway vehicle (OHV) drivers and passengers to wear the proper safety gear and ride responsibly in the wake multiple separate accidents.

Since Thanksgiving, three people have died in accidents on OHVs. The first occurred in Mohave County after an ATV rolled, killing an 11-year-old female passenger and injuring the 12-year-old driver, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

The second accident claimed the life of a veteran Phoenix Fire captain who rolled the side-by-side he was driving while on an elk hunt south of the Grand Canyon, according to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office.

Over the weekend, an 18-year-old Arizona State University student died after his ATV collided with a tree.

“It only takes a split-second for tragedy to strike,” said Josh Hurst, AZGFD Off-Highway Vehicle Program coordinator. “The last few weeks have shown us that OHV accidents can happen to anybody at any time and that is why all riders and their passengers should wear the proper safety equipment at all times. Helmets save lives.”

Riders and operators are reminded that helmets are required by law for all riders under the age of 18 regardless of the off-highway vehicle type. However, they are strongly recommended for all riders. In addition riders should remember to:

  • Wear a seat belt at all times, if equipped.
  • Only carry the number of passengers recommended by the manufacturer for your vehicle. Often many accidents are the result of too many people riding a machine that was designed for fewer passengers.
  • Wear riding goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, riding gloves and over-the-ankle boots.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Be prepared and equipped with a map, a first aid kit, whistle and have basic tools on hand.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Take an OHV safety education course designed to teach off-road motorists how to ride safely and responsibly.

For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s OHV program and safety course options, visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.

Changes to signal timing mean big benefits for Phoenix drivers

PHOENIX — It may not be surprising to hear that coordinating the timing of city traffic signals and those at two busy Interstate 17 interchanges will save drivers time.

But the Arizona Department of Transportation and its partners, the city of Phoenix and Maricopa Association of Governments, have taken it a step further by adding up the time saved and its dollar value for a project involving Camelback and Indian School roads.

The answer: Motorists are expected to save 350,000 hours of travel time, worth $6.2 million, per year.

“Continuous improvement is ADOT’s culture and is reflected in both large and small things that the ADOT team does every day. Sometimes a seemingly small change that makes better use of resources can mean big improvements,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Drivers are already seeing a time savings from this coordination. Saving time means saving money and more time with family, friends and things you enjoy doing.”

“The ADOT team’s challenge is to keep improving time savings and promote efficiency for Arizona’s taxpayers,” Halikowski added.

“When ADOT, MAG and the city of Phoenix work together strategically, the public is the beneficiary,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said. “Properly timing the traffic signals at these busy intersections will ease congestion, which gets commuters home sooner, saves fuel and keeps our air cleaner.”

A project funded by Maricopa Association of Governments’ Traffic Signal Optimization Program studied traffic signal timing at the Camelback and Indian School interchanges and nearby city streets and recommended a number of improvements. The project developed a common cycle length for all traffic signals near those interchanges and the best timing for the morning and evening commutes.

ADOT and Phoenix made these recommended changes, leading to significant improvements in travel times at these locations. An independent study by ADOT staff identified the benefits in time saved.

Besides saving motorists time, these adjustments are expected to improve safety by reducing the number of stops drivers must make and time spent waiting at traffic lights. Shorter travel times and fewer stops also reduce fuel consumption and air pollution.

ADOT and Phoenix continue to evaluate other I-17 corridor interchanges to see if changes in signal coordination can improve traffic flow elsewhere.

Arizona begins installation of state’s first Safety Corridors

PHOENIX — This week, Arizona motorists will see new signage designating segments of some state highways as Safety Corridors. By the end of December, motorists may also notice an increased law enforcement presence in these Safety Corridors.

Safety Corridors are highway segments that have more crashes, injuries and deaths than would ordinarily be expected. Over the next two months, the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety will implement four Safety Corridors in Arizona, aiming to reduce crashes, severe injuries and traffic fatalities.

“These segments were selected because they have higher-than-average instances of speeding, aggressive driving, impaired driving and lack of seat belt use,” said Brent Cain, director of ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations Division. “Those are the leading factors in traffic deaths, and decreasing their occurrence makes the roads safer for everyone.”

Motorists will see new signs signaling they are entering and leaving a Safety Corridor, as well as signs that alert drivers that there will be zero tolerance for violations in a corridor.

“There will be strict enforcement of driving laws with zero tolerance for violations,” said DPS Lt. Col. Daniel Lugo. “If drivers obey the speed limit and other laws, there will be fewer crashes.”

The Safety Corridors will launch in two phases, with each including an urban and rural segment. Sign installation in the first phase begins today, Monday, Dec. 12, and will be completed by Dec. 20. Work on the second phase is scheduled to begin and be completed in January 2017.

PHASE ONE

o Interstate 10 (urban): Four-miles from the I-17 Stack to SR 51/Loop 202 Red Mountain Mini-Stack (mileposts 143-147)
o Interstate 10 (rural): Twenty-three miles from Loop 202 Santan Freeway to State Route 187 (mileposts 162-185)

PHASE TWO

o US 60 (urban): Thirteen miles from Loop 101 Price Freeway to Loop 202 (mileposts 177-190)
o Interstate 40 (rural): Twenty-three miles from Kingman east to US 93 (mileposts 49-72)

A grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety helped support establishing these Safety Corridors.

“The Safety Corridors will make traveling safer for everyone,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “If you already obey driving laws, you have nothing to worry about and can enjoy safer travel. If you speed, drive aggressively or break other driving laws, you will face the consequences of zero tolerance enforcement.”

Safety Corridor segments were selected by reviewing historic crash data related to driver behavior and input from law enforcement. This is a pilot program that will remain in place for at least one to two years. After that, the partner agencies will review their effectiveness and consider whether to add Safety Corridors.

Inventing an inexpensive shield protects ADOT interstate signs from graffiti

graffiti-shield1_cropPHOENIX — With graffiti an ongoing threat to interstate freeway signs mounted on overpasses, an Arizona Department of Transportation employee invented an inexpensive metal shield that helps keep vandals and their spray paint at bay.

In ADOT’s culture of continuous improvement, this innovation by Interstate Signing Supervisor Dudley Heller is referred to as kaizen, something enhancing productivity, safety, efficiency and more.

Heller’s aluminum shield extends diagonally away from the sides of signs like a hood, making it difficult for would-be graffiti artists to reach around.

“It’s worked quite well,” Heller said.

For an investment of $17.50 per square foot, the shields protect taxpayers’ investment in signs that cost as much as $10,000 to replace.

The shields protect drivers, as spray paint damages the reflective coating on signs and makes them harder to read at night. They also make things safer for ADOT workers, who’d have to replace damaged signs on overpasses.

So far, ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations Division (TSM&O) has installed the shields on signs along Interstate 10 in Phoenix and Interstate 19 in Tucson.

“We’ve saved a lot of money by doing this, not to mention the unsightliness of the graffiti being out there,” Heller said.

BOAT SAFE, BOAT SMART, BOAT SOBER

Coconino County Sheriff Photo.

Coconino County Sheriff Photo.

PAGE — On Saturday, August 13th 2016 law enforcement agencies in Northern Coconino County will be conducting an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) and boating safety checkpoint at Lake Powell from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. In an effort to reduce the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol and drug involved boat collisions, OUI checkpoints are conducted to identify offenders and get them off the waterways as well as to inform and educate the public of the dangers of impaired boating.

OUI checkpoints are a proven-effective method for achieving this goal. By publicizing these enforcement and education efforts, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona Game and Fish Department believe boaters can be deterred from operating watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In addition, members of the boating community are encouraged to ensure their vessels are properly outfitted with required safety equipment to ensure a safe voyage.

Traffic volume and weather permitting, all vessels may be checked for safety equipment and operators who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs will be arrested. Our objective is to send a clear message to those who are considering operating a watercraft after consuming alcohol or drugs-Boat Safe, Boat Smart, Boat Sober! Deputies of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office will partner with Officers of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, National Park Service, Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the Page Police Department. It is our desire that this two pronged approach of public awareness/education and strict enforcement will allow boating enthusiasts to have an enjoyable and safe recreational experience in Coconino County.

Safe boating recreation is a must, and everyone should take a minute and remember to check your boats, personal watercraft and all equipment before launching at your favorite lake or waterway. Make sure you have all required safety equipment, such as proper fitting life jackets and working fire extinguishers.