Oklahoma has become the first state in the nation to require a work zone safety and first responder safety course for teen drivers. The law, set to take effect Nov. 1, 2023, will require all Oklahoma teens to complete the free Oklahoma Work Zone Safe and First Responder Safety online education course before applying for their intermediate driver license.
Work Zone Safe along with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Service Oklahoma are highlighting this new law during National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 15-21. With car crashes being one of the leading causes of deaths for U.S. teenagers, it’s imperative that new drivers understand the importance of driving safely inside work zones and moving over and slowing down for first responders. In Oklahoma, 91 motorists were killed in work zone crashes on state highways and turnpikes in the past five years. There were 102 drivers under the age of 20 severely injured in work zone crashes in the past five years plus 10 young motorist fatalities in that same time frame.
“We want teenagers who are learning to drive to have the added benefit of work zone safety education before they ever encounter one for the first time behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz. “Work zones require all drivers to be very focused by putting away all distractions to ensure that they, other motorists, and our workers all stay safe. We’re proud to see Oklahoma taking the lead and the needed steps to do more to educate and engage drivers about being safe in work zones and how to safely share the road with first responders. We also want to thank the Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt for their support of this important safety program.”
Work Zone Safe was created by Tom Robins for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and in partnership with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. The new law could not have been created without the dedication to transportation and public safety from Gov. Kevin Stitt, House Transportation Chairman Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, and Senate Public Safety Chairman Sen. Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, Robins said.
The program teaches teens about work zone and first responder safety and introduces them to the faces behind the flag and flashing lights. In total, ODOT and OTA have lost 72 employees combined in the line of duty in their history, which is more than any other state agency other than the military.
“We have filled our roads with ‘digitally drunk’ drivers,” Robins said. “This program is designed to teach young drivers how their driving can impact themselves and others forever.”
While Work Zone Safe is offered to students across the nation as of this year, Oklahoma is the first state to require teen drivers to take the course before applying for their license. Once completed, teens can download their Work Zone Safe certificate and present it to Service Oklahoma when they apply for their learner permit. Teens must have it completed by the time they take their drive test for their intermediate driver license, according to Service Oklahoma.
“Everyone deserves to come home safe every day. When it comes to work zones and sharing the road with first responders safely, drivers need to have eyes up, phones down, buckle up and slow down,” Robins said.
In addition to the online course, Work Zone Safe offers an in-person, hands-on education in partnership with ODOT, OTA and Oklahoma Challenge Teen Traffic Safety Program among others. This traveling work zone safety program lets students get an inside look at work zones and lets them hear directly from highway workers on what they should be doing when driving through work zones to make it home safely every time. Since the program’s inception in 2021, Work Zone Safe has brought hands-on work zone driver safety to more than 18,000 Oklahoma teen drivers.
The online course teaches teen drivers, ages 15-19, to be confident, capable and safe drivers in work zones. In addition to being a requirement for an intermediate driver license, teens who complete the program will be entered to win a $500 educational scholarship and qualify for a safer driver insurance discount. Parents and student drivers can learn more at WorkZone-Safe.com.