National Work Zone Awareness week urges safe driving through work zones

April 21, 2020

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) this week is joining transportation leaders around the country in reminding drivers that safety must always be top of mind when traveling through work zones, in recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW).

NWZAW is celebrating its 20th anniversary, first launched in 2000 after the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) developed an agreement with FHWA and AASHTO, outlining the goals for NWZAW efforts. These goals included raising awareness of the need for more caution when driving through work zones to decrease fatalities and injuries; establishing and promoting a uniform set of safety tips; and implementing work zone safety training and best practices for roadway workers.

FHWA says that this year's NWZAW serves as an important reminder that, despite a global public health emergency, construction is moving forward on America’s roads, and that drivers should always be mindful of workers in highway construction areas throughout the year. In 2018, the most recent year for which data are available, 754 people died in highway work-zone crashes.

Though highway workers are often among the victims of work zone crashes, FHWA says the dangers of reckless driving more often affect those behind the wheel and their passengers. Four out of five work zone fatalities were drivers or passengers, according to FHWA data. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone or do not pay attention to the changing road conditions and drive off the road, or run into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers.

“While we all continue to do our part by staying home to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to remember that highway construction crews are still hard at work on projects to maintain our roads and bridges,” FHWA Administrator Nicole Nason said in a statement. “If you have to go out, please drive carefully through work zones so we can keep highway workers as well as first responders safe.”

For 20 years, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been held in April at the traditional start of construction season when highway projects increase. This year, state and local transportation agencies are using social media in lieu of public events to remind those who need to be on the road to drive carefully.