Originally created 05/08/02

The new faces of caution



Rand McGee's 3-year-old daughter, Makenzie, can be seen every day on the side of Interstate 20 in Columbia County asking motorists to drive safe for the sake of her dad.

"Be alert so my daddy does not get hurt," she says.

Although it's only a picture and a request displayed on a sign, it's part of a new strategy that a Georgia company hopes will make things safer at road construction sites.

"We just wanted something different that would catch the public's eye and get motorists thinking about driving safe," said Joe Richard, with Gilbert Southern, a Peach Tree City construction company in charge of two improvement projects on I-20 in McDuffie and Columbia counties.

The signs - seven in all - display the children of those who work at the site. The signs are spread out between the Belair Road exit of I-20 and Thomson.

"This is really the first time in the state of Georgia that something like this has been done," said Rusty Merritt of the Georgia Department of Transportation. "It's something the contractors took on themselves to do."

Gilbert Southern officials say they hope to replicate the signs throughout the state.

"If we have another job on an interstate or a large four-lane highway, we will be using these signs," Mr. Richard said.

Some motorists say the signs have already caught their attention in a good way.

"I think it's a good idea," George Bishop, of Athens, said while stopped at an I-20 rest area near the construction. "It makes you have some compassion. Anytime you throw kids and dogs out there, it works."

In the long run, Mr. McGee, a safety manager at the I-20 site, said he believes the signs will curb traffic fatalities at construction sites. He said previous DOT signs only stated the number of traffic fatalities at construction zones.

"When you see a little kid, it makes you wonder if you're doing everything right," he said. "It gives the outside world a reality check."

Since 1973, 52 DOT employees have been killed in work zone accidents, according to the Georgia DOT. Three out of four fatalities at construction sites have been motorists and not workers, the DOT states.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904.