Every April, at the start of the road construction season, National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is held. The intent is to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones, and to promote the safe and efficient flow of traffic through them.
This year’s NWZAW is set for April 15 to 19. The theme is: Work Zone Safety: We’re All In This Together.
Work zones pose many risks because of the congestion they cause and from all the activity of the personnel and equipment in them.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) research finds that one work zone fatality occurs every 10 hours (2.3 a day) and one work zone injury happens every 13 minutes (110 a day). Four of every five victims in a work zone crash are motorists, not highway workers, as is commonly believed.
Here are some recommendations from traffic safety professionals that can help you avoid the hazards and dangers that can be encountered when driving through roadway work zones. Be sure to share this information with others in your organization
- Pay attention to the signs. Bright-orange diamond-shaped warning signs are posted well in advance of road construction projects.
- If you see a “Flagman Ahead” warning sign, stay alert and be prepared to obey the flagman’s directions. In a work zone, a flagman has the same authority as a regulatory sign. A driver can be cited for disobeying a flagman’s instructions.
- Turn on your headlights so workers and other motorists can more clearly see you.
- Dedicate your full attention to roadway.
- Minimize distractions. Avoid changing radio stations, talking or texting on a cell phone, etc.
- Slow down and check your speed. Reduced speed limits may be posted. Driving slower allows more time to react to any hazards. Traffic fines may be doubled for violations in work zones.
- Be prepared to merge or change lanes as directed by markers, signs or flagmen.
- Watch for stopped, slowing traffic and slow-moving construction vehicles.
- Increase your following distance. Rear-end collisions are the most common work zone accidents.
- Stay in your lane and do not try to pass or change lanes.
- Expect the unexpected. Workers and equipment may be working on or very close to traffic lanes. Traffic lane widths are often reduced and traffic patterns changed. Detours may be required.
- Some work zones - such as line painting and road patching - are mobile, moving along as the work is finished. Just because you don’t see workers immediately after you see the warning signs doesn’t mean there isn’t a work zone.
- Observe posted work zone signs until you see the one that indicates you have left the work zone.
When driving through work zones, be patient. Roadway construction projects may add some delay to your trip, but such projects will improve road conditions and promote safer driving for all motorists.