Spring is here, and once again the orange barrels signifying road work have come out of hibernation. We all need to drive extra carefully through the zones where men and women are hard at work improving our roadways.
You see, in 2010, work zone crashes killed 576 people and injured an estimated 37,000. As you can imagine, road work is a dangerous occupation; in fact, 10 to 15 percent of work zone fatalities are workers. But, surprisingly, that also means that 85 to 90 percent of those killed in work zone crashes are drivers and their passengers.
Thankfully, work zone crashes are preventable.
One way we've worked to reduce work zone crash fatalities is through National Work Zone Awareness Week. Each year since 1999, our Federal Highway Administration has teamed up with the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on this April public awareness effort. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) are also partners.
For 2012, National Work Zone Awareness Week starts today with a national kickoff --featuring Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez-- at a construction site near St. Louis.
And all week, states across the country will remind motorists that safer driving means safer work zones.
Work zones present drivers with unfamiliar situations. Changes in traffic patterns, closed or narrowed lanes, and the presence of construction equipment and workers increase the driving hazards we need to manage. Because our actions could jeopardize the safety of drivers, passengers, workers, and pedestrians, drivers must be attentive to changing conditions and exercise caution when approaching and traveling through work zones.
To help you avoid barreling through America's work zones, here are 10 tips from the FHWA:
- Expect the unexpected: Traffic lanes may be closed, narrowed, or shifted, and people may be working on or near the road.
- Slow down: Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone crashes; obey posted speed limits.
- Don't tailgate: The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear end collision.
- Keep a safe distance from workers and their equipment.
- Pay attention to the signs: The warning signs (typically orange) are there to help drivers move safely through the work zone.
- Obey flaggers: The flagger knows what is best for moving traffic safely.
- Stay alert and minimize distractions: Dedicate your full attention to the roadway.
- Keep up with the flow of traffic: Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by merging smoothly.
- Schedule enough time to drive safely: Expect delays and leave early. Check the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse for information on work zones throughout the country.
- Be patient and stay calm. Remember, the work zone means improvements to the road that will make your future drive better.
From planners and engineers to law enforcement and drivers, everyone has a role to play in work zone safety. So, this week--and every week--let's remember: Don't barrel through work zones.