Caltrans Unveils New Safety Mascot for Highway Workers

The California Department of Transportation and the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) recently unveiled “Safety Sam” as their new “safety cone mascot” that will expand public safety awareness to protect highway workers statewide.

[Above image by Caltrans]

The two agencies hosted a statewide K-12 student contest to come up with a name for their safety cone mascot and the winning entry of “Safety Sam” – selected from 2,000 entries – came from Miller Ruiz, who attends the Huntington Christian School in Huntington Beach.

In recognition of his winning suggestion, Miller will receive a laptop, a $500 gift card, a $500 gift card for his teacher’s classroom, T-shirts, and a visit from “Safety Sam” to his school.

Caltrans Director Tony Tavares said “Safety Sam” is designed to educate Californians on the importance of moving over a lane or slowing down when they see his orange friends and highway workers.

[Editor’s note: The annual National Work Zone Awareness Week campaign is held every spring to coincide with the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway work zones. The 2023 NWZAW campaign – hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation – will be held April 17-21. Click here to learn more.]

“Caltrans makes safety priority number one and safety cones are critical to let drivers know when and where highway workers are on the road,” Tavares said in a statement.

Tony Tavares. Photo by Caltrans.

“Including young people in our safety awareness campaigns helps us raise the awareness of both the next generation and current drivers, and we’re excited to make Safety Sam the face of the important work being done to keep our highway workers and the traveling public safe.”

“Educating the public on safe driving behaviors is key to helping save lives on our roadway,” added Barbara Rooney, OTS director. “’Safety Sam’ engages the public in a fun and interactive way while serving as an important reminder to be attentive when approaching work zones.”

In 2020, Caltrans said nearly 7,000 work-zone crashes occurred on California roadways, resulting in more than 3,000 injuries and nearly 100 fatalities. Nationally, drivers and passengers account for 85 percent of people killed in work zones.

California’s “Move Over” law requires all drivers to move over a lane if safe to do so, or if unable to do so safely, slow down when they see amber flashing lights on Caltrans vehicles, law enforcement, and other emergency vehicles and tow trucks. Failure to obey the “Move Over” law can result in fines up to $1,000, plus points on your driving record.

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