Safe driving through road construction work zones is the focus of National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW).
This year’s theme is Safe Work Zones for All: Protect workers. Protect road users. It features a poster reminiscent of the World War II poster with Rosie the Riveter. In her place are a male and female roadway worker proclaiming, We Can Do It!, the original language used in the WWII poster. (See the poster at the bottom of this article.)
Each year, a different state is chosen to host the kickoff event and select promotional materials. This year it is Michigan. State officials chose that image as a reflection of Michigan’s industrial heritage. Original “Rosies” worked as riveters in an aircraft factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan building B24 bombers, which is now the site of the American Center for Mobility (ACM).
Work zones may at times be a major cause of traffic congestion and delays; however, they are a necessary phase of the life cycle of streets, roads, highways, and bridges. They provide a safe area for workers and a safe route for road users around essential road work activity, including construction, maintenance, and utility installation.
NWZAW begins on Monday, April 20, with Work Zone Safety Training Day, which emphasizes the importance of safety training for all road construction personnel. Companies involved in highway construction or maintenance will pause during the workday for safety demonstrations, discussions about safety practices, and other prevention steps.
Wednesday, April 22, is Go Orange Day and all roadway workers and safety professionals will likely wear orange to bring attention to the need for safety in work zones. Everyone is encouraged to wear orange to show their support for work zone safety.
To protect workers and road users, follow these tips for safe travel through work zones.
- Be Prepared. Before hitting the road, check phone apps, transportation agency websites, and the radio for the latest traffic information. With knowledge of active work zones, you can better plan your trip. Change your start time or, if possible, find alternative routes to avoid work zones altogether.
- Wear Your Seatbelt. Seatbelts save lives. They are your best defense in a crash.
- Stay Focused. Watch the road and not your phone. Work zones can change daily; pay attention so you can follow new traffic patterns.
- Be Alert. Be aware of all activity occurring around you, including other drivers.
- Slow Down and Don’t Tailgate. Speeding and tailgating can lead to crashes with other vehicles and with the workers. Obey the posted work zone speed limits and keep a safe distance between your car and the vehicle ahead.
- Obey Road Crews and Signs. Cones, barrels, and warning signs help facilitate the movement of traffic in and through work zones. Flaggers are there for your safety, as well as the safety of the workers.
- Watch for Workers. Every year, workers are killed by vehicles traveling in work zones. (Struck-by injuries are a leading cause of death and since 1992 the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the construction industry.)
- Share the Road. When you see work crews and official vehicles with flashing warning lights, move over to allow them to pass.
- Use Caution Around Large Vehicles. Large vehicles have a slower reaction time, so don’t make sudden lane changes in front of trucks that are trying to slow down.
- Remember, Protect Everyone. Be respectful of workers and fellow drivers. We need everyone to work together to ensure we are all protected in work zones.
Highway construction companies are constantly striving to improve the safety of their workers and the traveling public. Roadway work zones use a variety of warning systems, barriers, delineators, flaggers, and other traffic control measures to make sure drivers and workers stay separated, but it only takes a moment of distraction for an incident to happen that will change lives forever.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data indicates work zone fatalities in the United States for the five-year period from 2014 to 2018 equaled 3,726, averaging 745 fatalities per year. During that same time, there were 648 worker fatalities in work zones, or, 130 workers per year, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. (Details for Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and National Work Zone Crash Data may be found by clicking on the links below.)
Since 1999, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) to coordinate and sponsor this event. The first national event was held at a work zone in Springfield, VA in April 2000. Over the years, other transportation partners have joined the effort to support NWZAW.
Everyone plays a role in work zone safety. National Work Zone Awareness Week highlights the deadly dangers of inattention at highway work areas. Join us April 20-24 in bringing attention to the risks. Wear orange on Wednesday (April 22) to provide a visible reminder and to show your support for the families who have lost loved ones in work zone crashes.
Let’s put an end to the tragedies and provide Safe Work Zones for All.
If everyone pitches in, We Can Do It!
Additional information and training resources are available at the following websites: