Summer is just around the bend, and so are the orange barrels that mark the start of construction season. Roadway workers put their lives on the line every time they set foot in a work zone, which is why transportation agencies across the nation have designated this week as National Work Zone Awareness Week.
But it’s not just roadway workers who are in harm’s way. In 2012, nearly four in five victims in work-zone crashes were drivers or passengers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Overall, 609 people died in highway work-zone crashes, according to NHTSA.
"The latest statistics show that speeding was a factor in more than 35 percent of all fatal work-zone crashes in 2012," said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. "This critically important campaign is designed to help drivers understand why they need to slow down and pay attention, especially now. This is the start of the roadway construction season and thousands of workers are going to be out there, on America's highways and bridges."
As part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, state transportation departments across the country will hold awareness events this week.
- In Kansas, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge, the governor’s mansion and all state DOT district offices will be lit up in orange to raise awareness of work-zone safety. In Washington state, transportation officials are encouraging citizens to wear orange or display their favorite orange symbol.
- The New York City Department of Transportation is placing work-zone-safety ribbon magnets on all vehicles and running print, radio and outdoor ads to promote work-zone safety in New York City and in Albany. The department also is working on state legislation to intensify penalties against drivers who are convicted of either killing or injuring construction workers in work zones.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation is using National Work Zone Awareness Week to highlight two distracted-driving laws that went into effect in 2010. It now is illegal for drivers to talk on a cell phone while traveling through a highway construction work zone or school zone. Drivers also are prohibited from emailing, texting or surfing the internet while driving on all Illinois roadways. Fines start at $75 for either offense.
The theme of this year’s awareness week is “Work Zone Speeding: A Costly Mistake.”
The National Work Zone Awareness Week campaign began in 1999 when the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Traffic and Safety Services Association joined to promote work zone safety. Since then, state DOTs and transportation groups have joined the campaign each April to reduce fatalities and promote safer driving practices.