You hear a lot about pedestrian, school bus, bicycle, and general road safety, but ensuring that workers, motorists, and facility owners and operators are kept safe in construction work zones is just as important. In 2010, 87,606 traffic crashes, resulting in 576 fatalities and 37,476 injuries, occurred in work zones. While these crashes only made up 1.6% of crashes that year and most work zone crashes don’t lead to fatalities, the deaths, injuries, and property damage that does occur can be prevented with safe and efficient traffic flow in work zones.
In an effort to raise awareness of motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones, the Virginia Department of Transportation designated an entire week in April, the start of the construction season, as National Work Zone Awareness Week. This year, National Work Zone Awareness Week falls from April 7-11 and will be kicked off nationally in Seattle, WA.
Sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) since 200, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) since 2000, National Work Zone Awareness Week is celebrated on a national and state level through events designed to promote work zone safety. Each year, a chosen theme focuses on a certain aspect of work zone safety. This year’s theme, “Work Zone Speed: A Costly Mistake,” focuses on the dangers of speeding in work zones.
Celebrate National Work Zone Awareness Week by practicing these work zone safety tips and following them throughout the year:
- Stay alert and avoid distractions, such as cell phones, and pay attention to signs and work zone flaggers.
- Expect the unexpected, including reduced speed limits, lane shifts, and workers.
- Don’t speed in work zones and obey the posted speed limits. In many states, fines for traffic violations double when they are committed in a work zone.
- Drive through work zones with caution, watch out for workers, and keep a safe distance between you and the workers and their equipment.
- Turn on your headlights so that workers can see you.
- Avoid changing lanes and keep up with traffic flow.
- Keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you, as the most common type of crash that occurs in work zones is a rear end collision.
- Plan ahead by leaving a few minutes early if you plan on traveling through a work zone.
- Be patient and avoid frustration, which can lead to aggressive driving behavior.
For more work zone safety tips, visit the state Department of Transportation that started National Work Zone Awareness Week at www.vdot.virginia.gov.