National Work Zone Safety Week: ‘Be alert – our parents are at work’

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Each year nearly 50 road construction workers are killed in the U.S. as a result of being struck by a motor vehicle, and state and local officials are working to change that during National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Infograph illustrating injury and deaths reported in work zones nationwide in 2015 | Image courtesy of the Work Zone Management Program, St. George News

It is time to go orange for National Work Zone Awareness Week, which takes place the second week of April. Officials in Utah and across the country will be illuminating electronic message signs with caution messages for passers-by.

Spring in Utah is “all about construction, from UDOT’s perspective,” Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Carlos Braceras said, adding that the agency’s primary concern is safety – for both the public and the workers.

Highway work zones are hazardous both for motorists who have to navigate through the confusing array of signs, barrels and lane changes, and for workers who build, repair and maintain city streets, bridges and highways.

In 2015, a work zone crash occurred every 5.4 seconds across the country, and on an average day there are 70 work zone crashes that result in injury. Each week, 12 work zone-related crashes resulted in at least one fatality, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Work Zone Safety Awareness Week 2018 poster | Image courtesy of Work Zone, St. George News

“These are real people. These are husbands and wives, these are sons and daughters, and these are fathers and mothers,” Associated General Contractors of Utah President Rich Thorn said. “We need to make sure that we are being really careful.”

Road workers in Utah and across the country are at a significant risk of serious or fatal injuries from vehicles passing outside of the work zone.

“Especially on the freeways, we’re talking about high-flow traffic and high-speed freeway speeds going into these construction zones,” Utah Highway Patrol Col. Mike Rappich said. “And the need to absolutely slow down.”

According to UDOT, motorists in Washington County traverse nearly 4.5 million miles of asphalt-lined state and local highways and interstates on any given day, which is roughly 1.6 billion miles a year.

Those miles make up part of the 84 million miles driven throughout Utah on any given day, totaling nearly 31 billion miles per year.

That is equal to the number of miles between the earth and Neptune, at its most distant point – multiplied by three.

That is also 31 billion reasons to stay safe, particularly in areas where road work is taking place.

Launched in 2000, National Work Zone Awareness Week is an event that takes place nationwide, with partnerships between state departments of transportation, national road safety organizations, government agencies, private companies and individuals.

Work zone safety tips

  • Know the work zone signs – look for direction from cones, barrels, pavement markings and other devices for navigation.
  • Pay attention to other drivers – work zones are less forgiving and include narrow lanes and no shoulder to escape onto.
  • Stay focused – avoid distractions because losing focus in a work zone can prove deadly.
  • Expect the unexpected – including actions by other motorists, construction vehicles that pull out into the roadway quickly.
  • Drive a speed that is appropriate for the situation, as opposed to the posted speed limit.
  • Be patient, remain calm.

“Put your phone down, reduce your speed, obey the signs and flaggers, and increase your following distance,” is a motto for the week provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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