Drive with Caution in Highway Work Zones; National Work Zone Safety Week Begins April 4

As we celebrate National Work Zone Safety Week, we must remember that 115 construction workers lost their lives in 2009 (the last year for which figures are available) in road construction zones. Some 667 motorists also lost their lives in highway work zones that same year.

Electric utility crews, highway repairmen and many others who work along roadways are in danger when motorists do not acknowledge the orange traffic barrels, flashing arrows and other signals that try to slow traffic.

National Work Zone Safety Week is designed to call attention to the need for heightened awareness of potential tragedy in work zones along both busy and lightly traveled roadways. Electric utility linemen and utility contractors trimming trees along overhead power lines are among the many whose job is made more dangerous because of inattentive drivers who do not slow down in work zones.

The “Teach Learn Care” TLC campaign offered by Safe Electricty urges everyone to make sure their friends and loved ones – and especially inexperienced drivers – are aware of the hazards surrounding street and highway work zones.

“Power poles and electrical equipment line our streets and highways, and narrow roadways often require crews to place their equipment in traffic lanes,” said Molly Hall, executive director of Safe Electricity. “Their work activities are often taken for granted but benefit us all, and like everyone, they deserve a safe workplace. Be alert to utility crews and other work zone workers for their safety as well as yours.”

To help prevent fatalities and injuries this year, Safe Electricity recommends the following guidelines while driving:

  • Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers.
  • Be patient: Traffic delays are sometimes unavoidable, so try to allow time for unexpected occurrences in your schedule.
  • Obey all signs and road crew flag instructions.
  • Merge early and be courteous to other drivers.
  • Use your headlights at dusk and during inclement weather.
  • Minimize distractions: Avoid activities such as operating a radio or cell phone, or eating while driving.

Many states recently have restricted the use of cell phones in work zones, so be aware of the legislation in your area. Many employers also have restricted the use of cell phones while driving. The most common crash in a roadway work zone is the rear-end collision, so remember to leave at least four car lengths of braking distance between you and the car in front of you. Be prepared to leave more room between you and the car ahead of you if the weather presents hazardous driving conditions.

“When people are traveling between locations, we’re often preoccupied with maintaining a schedule and become impatient with delays,” Hall said. “Unfortunately this may lead us to neglect the most important factor in our lives – our safety. It’s always more important to arrive at a destination alive and unharmed, than on time.” For more information on work zone safety, visit the Federal Highway Administration Web site at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov. For more information about the TLC program, visit: http://www.SafeElectricity.org.

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