Because road work increases in the spring time, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has kicked off its National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), as a DOT press release announces. This year’s theme is “Expect the Unexpected,” which urges drivers to stay alert when driving near highway workers, specifically looking out for “reduced speed limits; narrowed, shifted, or closed lanes; and people who may be working in or near the road.”
The need for caution exists because of the dangers involved. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, 579 people were killed as a result of work-zone car accidents, the press release reports. Speed was a factor in 23% of those accidents; and two out of three victims in work zone crashes in 2013 were drivers and passengers of vehicles, DOT writes. In 2012, the number of fatalities was 617. “Typically, work zone crashes occur when drivers fail to obey posted speed limits, fail to adapt to changing road conditions, or use cellphones while driving,” the press release says.
Fifteen years ago, when NWZAW, which is held annually, was first created, “Expect the Unexpected” was also the theme, writes FHWA’s Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program page. In a ceremony held Tuesday in Arlington, Va., to mark the start of NWZAW, Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau paid tribute to the 132 Virginia Department of Transportation employees who have died in highway work zones since 1928, the press release reports.
OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) magazine quotes U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx:
‘As the temperatures climb, thousands of highway workers nationwide are heading back to work to improve America’s roads. To keep them safe, we owe them our full attention when driving through work zones, so please avoid distractions like cellphones and obey posted speed limits.
‘[Newly released FHWA] data make it clear that traffic volumes are growing nationwide…. To keep our highways safe and less congested, we should not only invest in our nation’s infrastructure to expand capacity, but also look towards the future by encouraging greater technological innovations, which can make travel safer and more convenient.’
NWZAW is a partnership between federal, state, and local officials, the press release says. You can find resources on the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse page. In Colorado, the state Department of Transportation asks drivers to make its road construction zones, called “core zones,” safe, as it writes on its website. Drivers in Colorado can help prevent accidents by driving more slowly in those core zones, and heeding flaggers and police, the CDOT writes.