The Oregon Department of Transportation will be using portable traffic signals in some work zones at several locations this summer to help improve safety. The automated flagger assistance device, often referred to as a robo flagger, is a small traffic signal with a crossing arm that drops down to block traffic when the lane is closed. These traffic control units are more visible than human flaggers and motorists tend to see them from a greater distance away.

These robo flaggers are typically controlled by staff located a safe distance from moving traffic. Highway construction operations can be extremely hazardous, especially when motorists aren’t paying attention or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Several recent work zone crashes, including one where a flagger was struck and killed in Umatilla County, are prompting the use of the robo flagger devices.

Motorists are reminded to obey the signal and stay behind the stop sign when the light is red and control arm is down. Don’t drive around the control arm. Doing so puts you and others at risk as crews may be working on the roadway ahead and traffic from the opposite direction may be heading towards you. You could also get a hefty ticket, as traffic fines are double the amount in all work zones.

“Just because you might not see crews, equipment, or other traffic in the area doesn’t mean you can disobey the temporary traffic signal,” said ODOT Bridge Crew Coordinator Robert Cash. “Wait for the arm to move up and the light to switch from red to flashing orange. We’ll open the gate and allow you to proceed as soon as it is safe to do so.”

You can expect to see the robo flaggers along OR19 near Kimberly early next week. In June and July the units will be used in work zones along U.S. 730 between Umatilla and I-84; in La Grande along Cove and McAlister avenues at the freeway overpasses; along OR 334 and 335 near Helix and Athena; and other locations throughout the summer and fall.

“Please be patient and remember highway crews are working to create a safer, more efficient transportation system for all users,” Cash said.