Work Zone Awareness Week Calls for Caution, Slower Driving in Construction Zones

The ninth annual Work Zone Awareness Week, April 7-11, kicked off in Sacramento, Calif., on April 8. Various federal agencies and organizations came together to remind motorists to slow down and be alert when driving in construction zones.

This year's campaign theme, "Slow for the Cone Zone," seeks to bring national attention to motorist and employee safety and mobility issues in work zones.

OSHA participated in the kickoff event, where Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin Foulke Jr. emphasized the dangers employees in work zones face each day, including construction zone and motorist hazards.

“We are proud to be a part of this event as we work to increase awareness of safe driving in work zones and help to reduce injury and fatality rates among highway employees,” Foulke said.

Also urging everyone to drive slowly and carefully through highway work zones was Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray, who pointed out that “a work zone is the workplace of thousands of men and women.”

“Driving slowly and carefully keeps everyone safer,” he said.

Rise in Work Zone Accidents

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) noted that work zones provide improved roadways for smoother rides, better traffic flow and safer travel. But accidents, injuries and fatalities have risen in recent years in and around highway work zones.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were 1,010 work zone fatalities in 2006, and these fatalities nationwide have increased over the last decade by nearly 50 percent. The majority of accidents occur during the weekday commute, with trucks involved in 30 percent of crashes. More than 3,000 work zones are expected on U.S. highways by mid-summer, the peak of travel season.

"At a time when overall traffic safety is improving, work zones are actually seeing a rise in accidents and fatalities," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "This is an issue the trucking industry wants to correct, and one we hope to make the general public aware of."

America’s Road Team, a group of professional truck drivers with millions of accident-free miles, will station captains at welcome centers across the nation during Work Zone Awareness Week to educate motorists on ways to avoid high-risk driving mistakes. Their tips include:

  • Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for reduced speed limits, changes in traffic lanes and people working near or on the road.
  • Slow down. Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone crashes.
  • Don't tailgate. Keep a safe following distance between your car and the next vehicle.
  • Plan your trip. Leave early and schedule your trip with plenty of extra time and so you do not become anxious while driving, especially if you experience a delay.
  • Be aware of blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots on the front, back and sides. Avoid lingering in this space and do not cut in front of trucks – they cannot stop quickly.

"Work Zone safety is a major issue on the highway," said America's Road Team Captain Bill Burton. "Not only are these areas more hazardous than the typical road, but there are often workers present. For the sake of highway workers, and all motorists, drivers need to slow down and follow the rules of the road."

A full list of work zone safety tips for motorists and professional truck drivers is available at http://www.truckline.com.

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