Work Zone Safety Is a Job For Us All

National Work Zone Awareness Week was a month ago, but the need for mindfulness is ever-present. In the last five years, 200,000 people were injured in roadwork zone crashes and 4,400 people died. It is up to everyone who makes, sells or operates motor vehicles to bring that number down.

Policy Makers and Municipalities

Local laws can mandate lower speed limits in work zones and agencies can enforce them with increased patrols and stiffer penalties for violations. Local governments should initiate adequate training programs for flaggers, including officers trained specifically in work zone traffic control practices. It is essential that public service announcements and news outlets be used to inform the public about upcoming projects and the routes that will be affected.

Builders and Contractors

Agencies tasked with building roads can increase worker safety in countless ways. A complete road closure is the best way to eliminate worker exposure to safety risks from passing vehicles, but when that is not practical protective barriers, barrels, cones and lights can be used to channel traffic away from workers and equipment. The use of temporary rumble strips is especially effective as the strips provide visual, auditory, and kinesthetic stimuli to catch drivers’ attention. Supervisors must strictly enforce worker compliance with safety gear such as high-visibility vests and hardhat use.

Drivers

Being careful in work zones is more than just courteous driving—it is a matter of life and death for the drivers themselves. Of the 4,400 people killed in work zone crashes since 2014,  3,740 of them were drivers or passengers. The number one responsibility of drivers is to pay attention while driving—to signs, other drivers, roadside workers and construction debris that may result in hazardous conditions. Avoid changing lanes if possible and never exceed posted speed limits. Reduce distractions while in a work zone by not eating or using mobile devices. Be sure to follow all posted instructions as well as those issued by flaggers. Above all, stay alert as if your life depended on it. Because it does.