A reader asked recently just how many crashes there have been in the Rohnert Park-Cotati construction zone on Highway 101.

Last year, when construction really got going, 371 crashes were handled by the CHP between Santa Rosa Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard North compared to 298 for the same stretch in 2009. (Note: Some of the crashes were outside of the construction zone and other factors contribute to them, such as the annual pumpkin patch south of Pepper Road.)

“There has been an increase in crashes because drivers are not being as cautious as they should be in a construction zone,” CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.

He said it’s hard to pin down a common cause for the accidents. Some may get distracted by the construction equipment or work going on; others follow too closely.

Asked what Caltrans has done to minimize potential crashes in the construction zone, spokeswoman RocQuel Johnson replied that the agency has tried to keep the public informed of the construction progress and upcoming lane closures, cut the speed limit to 55 mph, installed K-rails on both sides of the road and within the last couple of weeks the CHP has installed radar trailers along the highway.

While the radar’s a nice reminder of your speed, it has limited value. A pickup zipped by the Road Warrior last night just before the trailer on southbound 101 south of Highway 116 and the radar flashed 75 mph! To really make a difference, a CHP officer is going have to stake out that area to drive home the point of the sign.

Johnson said Caltrans also wants drivers to be aware of highway conditions in the construction zone, be cautious and give themselves a safety buffer between cars.