(KTXL) — California has a new mascot for its Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans. After a statewide naming contest was held, Caltrans and the California Office of Traffic Safety unveiled the mascot’s name as “Safety Sam,” an enthusiastic orange traffic cone.  

Caltrans launched a naming contest for its new mascot in November for schoolchildren in the state. The contest was open to children from ages 5 to 18. 

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The winning student was Miller Ruiz from Huntington Beach, according to Caltrans. The student’s winning name was selected from nearly 2,000 entries submitted by K-12 students across the state. 

The statewide contest ran from Nov. 21, 2022, through Jan. 30, 2023

According to Caltrans, Ruiz 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 and contest are part of a campaign to expand public safety awareness to protect Caltrans workers throughout the state. 

Transportation officials will use the mascot for community outreach and educate Californians about the importance of moving over a lane or slowing down when they see orange cones and highway workers on roadways. 

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

Caltrans mascot mascot, Caltrans logo, Caltrans
Caltrans new mascot “Safety Sam.” Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

California’s “move over” law

In 2020, nearly 7,000 work-zone crashes occurred on California roadways, resulting in more than 3,000 and nearly 100 deaths, according to Caltrans. Across the country, drivers and passengers account for 85% of people killed in work zones. 

California has a “move over” law, which requires all drivers to move over a lane or slow down when they see flashing lights on a Caltrans vehicle, law enforcement, and other emergency vehicles, and tow trucks. 

Failure to obey the “move over” law can result in a $1,000 fine, Caltrans said. 

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