Colorado hopes to spend billions on road improvements in the years to come, so motorists should get used to dealing with road construction. What can you do to keep workers — and yourself — safe?

April 3-7 Designated Work Zone Awareness Week

A quick glance at the Colorado Department of Transportation website shows there are many street and highway construction projects going on throughout the state. In addition, the state is looking to earmark about $9 billion dollars over the next 10 years for road construction, according to news reports. If that comes to fruition, one thing is certain: Colorado motorists will be dealing with road construction for some time to come.

That means drivers must be aware of the dangers of driving through construction zones, not only for the safety of workers but for their own safety as well.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have joined forces to increase public awareness of work-zone safety issues by designating April 3-7 as Work Zone Awareness Week.

Fatal Accidents in Work Zones

According to the most recent statistics gathered by the FHWA, there were 669 fatalities due to vehicle accidents in work zones. That equals nearly two people a day.

While some may believe the risk is higher for road workers than drivers, the FHWA statistics show the opposite is true. According to officials, on average, 85 percent of deaths occurring in work zones were drivers and passengers in vehicles. The reasons noted for such a high rate were a lack of seat belt use, speeding, and impaired driving due to alcohol use. The most common type of auto accident involved vehicles rear-ending trucks.

Drop in Work Zone Deaths

There is one piece of good news when it comes to work zone fatalities: Roadway construction work deaths declined between 2005, when 165 workers were killed, and 2014, when the number was 119, a 28 percent decrease. While some of those deaths were the result of a construction accident, such as being struck by a construction vehicle, the second most common cause of a road construction worker fatality was a collision between a vehicle and a piece of road construction equipment being operated by a worker.

Staying Safe in Colorado’s Work Zones

As you travel around Colorado, keep in mind that there are some simple, yet important steps you can take to keep yourself and those working on our roadways safe:

  • Stay alert and minimize distractions. Keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone or other electronic gadgets, or anything else that takes your eyes off the road.
  • Watch for brake lights on cars ahead of you.
  • When entering a construction zone, follow directions and merge with caution into the proper lane.
  • Obey the posted speed limit, and be prepared to slow down.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Follow the instructions of the flaggers directing traffic.

And, the final step is one that may be the hardest for drivers but one that can save lives: Always expect the unexpected and be patient.

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