State DOTs across the country are recognizing National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
The goal of the national campaign is to remind drivers that safety must always be top of mind when traveling through work zones. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 754 people died in highway work-zone crashes in 2018. What's more, four out of five work zone fatalities are drivers or passengers, according to FHWA data.
This year's theme is "Safe Work Zones for All: Protect workers. Protect road users."
Several states released statements urging drivers to pay attention as they pass through work zones, while recognizing that there may be lighter traffic due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.
"With lighter traffic, it can be tempting to drive faster, but it is important to slow down in work zones," a statement from Mississippi DOT (MDOT) said. "MDOT urges drivers to be attentive to changing roadway conditions and exercise extreme caution while driving through work zones, keeping their safety as well as the safety of roadside workers in mind." In 2019, MDOT says the state lost three workers in work zone related incidents.
“At IDOT, we are committed to keeping this construction season on schedule, but urge the public to keep following stay-at-home orders and traveling only if you must,” Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said in a statement. “If you are driving at any time this year, you will drive through a work zone. Put down the phone. Pay attention to the signs. Don’t speed. At the end of the day, everyone wants to get home safely. Always remember: See Orange. Slow Down. Save Lives.” Each year, more than 5,100 crashes on average occur in Illinois work zones, resulting in almost 1,400 injuries. In 2019, 30 people died in work zones in Illinois, including one worker.
“Today and every day, we ask drivers to drive alert around work zones and slow down to make sure the people taking care of our roads get home safely," Allison Green, Drive Safe Alabama Coordinator with the Alabama DOT, said in a statement. In 2018, there were 3,810 work zone crashes in Alabama, resulting in 34 fatalities and 1,155 injuries.
The Alaska DOT&PF says that this year, work zone safety will include an emphasis on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Members of the Associated General Contractors led this effort by reviewing plans and best practices that were then incorporated into a COVID-19 Mitigation Response Plan for construction projects. On average, there are over 120 highway work zone crashes each year in Alaska.
The state of Rhode Island has reported zero work zone deaths during the last two consecutive years despite the record number of roadway and bridge repair projects underway in the state as a result of Governor Raimondo's RhodeWorks program.