Drivers across Virginia are likely to see a lot more highway work zones in the coming months and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) wants drivers to recognize how important their actions are to keep those work areas safe.
VDOT is advancing hundreds of new construction, maintenance and operations projects, and as those projects move to construction the resulting work zones will affect drivers across the state. Motorists will encounter those projects in every part of the state and on all parts of the highway system, from busy urban interstates to local secondary roads in more rural areas.
April 4 through April 8 is National Work Zone Awareness Week. VDOT will join other state and federal transportation agencies as well as the highway contracting community to educate motorists about the important role they play in keeping themselves and highway workers safe while driving through highway work zones.
This year’s theme – “Safer driving – Safer work zones – For everyone” – emphasizes the challenges that work zones have for the driving public. “Motorists may not be aware that the work being done in highway work zones carries risks for them as well as for the workers,” said VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley. “Four out of five people killed in work zone crashes are motorists.”
In 2009, the latest year that statistics are available, there were seven fatalities in Virginia that involved work zone crashes. Two of those crashes involved two fatalities each. In 2009 there were 3,249 work zone crashes that resulted in 1,721 injuries in addition to those killed. Looking at the national picture, in 2008 fatal work zone crashes accounted for two percent of those killed in highway crashes. In that year there were 720 people killed nationwide and another 40,000 people injured.
“We will do our part to ensure that the traveling public is as safe as possible while using Virginia’s highways,” Commissioner Whirley continued. “We need drivers to do their part to help us keep them safe. That includes recognizing that they’re approaching a highway work area and reacting appropriately by paying full attention to the signs and traffic flow, slowing their speed and minimizing distractions.”
In recognition of Work Zone Awareness Week VDOT will hold a vigil to honor its employees who have lost their lives in work zone crashes. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 4 at the VDOT Workers Memorial, which is located on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain (milepost 102 eastbound) in Albemarle County. The ceremony is a way for VDOT to honor the memory of those workers who have lost their lives while working on Virginia’s highways. The public is invited to attend the vigil.
VDOT offers the following tips for motorists to increase safety as they navigate highway work zones:
- Follow the signs. Orange signs with black lettering should alert you on the approach to a work zone. Signs and flaggers will direct you through the work zone. Expect changes in traffic patterns as the project progresses.
- Turn on your headlights. Workers and other motorists must see you.
- Don’t tailgate. Unexpected stops frequently occur in work zones.
- Don’t speed. Note the speed limits in and around the work zone. Enhanced fines of up to $500 may be levied for speeding in a work zone.
- Keep up with traffic flow. Dedicate your full attention to the road and those traveling around you.
- Don’t change lanes in the work zone. The time saved just isn’t worth it.
- Minimize distractions. Avoid changing radio stations and using mobile phones in the work zone.
- Stay alert, expect the unexpected. Keep an eye out for workers and their equipment.
- Be patient. Remember, the construction or maintenance crewmembers are working to improve the highway, and the safety and comfort of your future travels.
- Call 511. Receive up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information from any telephone in Virginia. Before you travel, log on to www.511Virginia.org for road and traffic conditions, weather forecasts and live traffic cameras on many major highways.
More information about Work Zone Awareness Week is available on VDOT’s web site: http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/prog-wzsa-default.asp
Find out about the VDOT Workers Memorial, including information about some of those individuals who are memorialized on the monument: http://www.virginiadot.org/about/is-worker-memorial.asp