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Placer Sentinel

Caltrans, OTS Unveil New Student-Named Work Zone Safety Mascot

Feb 09, 2023 12:00AM ● By Caltrans News Release

New Caltrans mascot Safety Sam will help promote statewide traffic safety, public education and awareness campaigns. Image courtesy of Caltrans

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) unveiled on February 6, 2023, Safety Sam as their new safety cone mascot. The name was selected in a statewide student contest and is part of the campaign to expand public safety awareness to protect highway workers throughout the state.

Huntington Christian School (Huntington Beach) student Miller Ruiz’s winning name was selected from nearly 2,000 entries submitted by K-12 students across the state. In recognition of his winning suggestion, Miller will receive a laptop, a $500 gift card, a $500 gift card for their teacher’s classroom, T-shirts, and a visit from Safety Sam. The mascot will educate Californians on the importance of moving over a lane or slowing down when they see his orange friends and highway workers.  

“Caltrans makes safety priority number one, and safety cones are critical to let drivers know when and where highway workers are on the road,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “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 roadways,” said OTS Director Barbara Rooney. “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, 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% 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. 

The statewide contest ran from Nov. 21, 2022, through Jan. 20, 2023. Safety Sam will be used by Caltrans Districts for community outreach and engagement efforts. The mascot’s image will also be used in materials aiming to inform the public about the importance of the “Move Over” law and work zone safety. 

With safety as its top priority, Caltrans is using the Safe System approach to achieve its goal of reducing to zero the number of fatalities and serious injuries on state highways by 2050. This approach builds on its ongoing work to improve safety throughout its network and on all transportation projects the department funds or oversees, which includes “complete street” features that provide safe and accessible options for people walking, biking and taking transit. 

All contest prizes provided courtesy of iHeart Media. For more information on Caltrans and OTS initiatives, visit and