Spread the Word

April 17, 2023
The 24th annual National Work Zone Awareness week starts today

By Gavin Jenkins, Senior Managing Editor

In 1997, a few staff members of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Bristol district decided to spend a week in April raising awareness about work zone safety before construction season kicked into high gear.

Their awareness campaign caught on, and in 1999, the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) joined forces to launch the National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW).

The 24th annual NWZAW starts today, and this year’s host is the Missouri Department of Transportation. The official kickoff event will be held tomorrow at the new Lance Corporal Lean Deraps I-70 westbound bridge over the Missouri River near Rocheport, Mo.

“It’s an honor to be hosting,” said Nicole Hood, state highway safety and traffic engineer at MoDOT. “We’ve worked with ATSSA and have planned for this event with the main goal of advocating for work zone safety and bringing attention to the importance of everyone’s safety as they travel through work zones.”

This year’s theme is “You play a role in work zone safety. Work with us,” and, according to Hood, the point behind this message is to remind everyone that everyone who enters a work zone plays a crucial role in the safety of highway workers and yourself.

“We want to urge motorists to work with us and remind them to make smart driving choices,” she said.

Each day of NWZAW has a focus. Work zone safety training steps into the spotlight today, with MoDOT and the kickoff event taking center stage tomorrow. Wednesday is “Go Orange Day,” the campaign takes to the internet on Thursday with a day focused on spreading awareness through social media, and the week ends with a moment of silence on Friday for those we have lost in work zones. 

NWZAW also has received congressional support. Last month, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize NWZAW and the importance of urging motorists to slow down and pay attention in a work zone.

“The message is so meaningful to so many people,” said Stacy Tetschner, president and CEO of ATSSA. “Whether you’re a contractor or a DOT employee or manufacturer, everyone has lost someone in a work zone.” 

Today’s theme emphasizes the importance of safety training. Companies are urged to take a timeout today for safety demonstrations.

Tomorrow’s kickoff event in Missouri will be livestreamed. The I-70 bridge is an ongoing project near Columbia, Mo., and the kickoff will include a press conference in the morning, with local and federal leaders in attendance, as well as relatives of a fallen MoDOT worker who died in a work zone.

“We’re hosting several work zone safety lunch and learns,” said Hood. “This is an opportunity to emphasize several of the different work zone safety topics. For example, we will have one that is an overview of flagger safety.”

Throughout the country, DOTs and local government offices will mark the week with awareness demonstrations of their own. Last year, members of the Texas Department of Transportation went viral for creating an orange barrel-snake sculpture.

Whether it is “Go Orange Day,” when people are urged to wear orange to highlight the importance of safety, or the social media storm day, where people are encouraged to use hashtags #NWZAW and #WorkZoneSafety, the week offers several opportunities for individuals to get involved and raise awareness. R&B

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